Life and Literature

article posted Jul 6, 07:10

One of the things that I’ve tended to see as problematic in much contemporary discussion of books is the emphasis on the author and his or her biography – as if the key to a work’s meaning lay in the detritus of daily life rather than the writing itself. This feels terribly reductive to me; it seems to close down the text rather than opening it up. It seems vaguely related to the worst elements of celebrity culture too… with its obsessive stalking of movie stars’ love lives and outfit choices.

All that said, it’s an old debate and one that is unlikely to ever vanish.

Recently these pieces appeared in the Times. Although far from the final word, of course, they’re fairly good considerations of some of the issues at hand.