This week’s Booking Through Thursday question:
Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse – a biography has made you love an author more?
No. I’ve never been put off a writer’s works after reading a biography. Quite the opposite has been the case: most of the biographies I’ve read have intrigued me enough to read more of the writer’s work.
That’s especially true about Ernest Hemingway. I had never read Hemingway until reading “Hills Like White Elephants” my freshman year in college. I was intrigued right off by the style, the seemingly simple sentences, but also by the brief bio my instructor presented before we read the story (or was the bio in our text? Memory fuzzes 22 years later).
I wanted to know more about Hemingway because of the brief bio, and began reading A Farewell to Arms, and then For Whom the Bell Tolls. Later, I discovered Kenneth Lynn’s Hemingway (Simon and Schuster, 1987), an excellent biography that delves extensively into Hemingway’s psychosexual history and how that history figures into Hemingway’s writing: hair fetishism, gender-bending, etc.
Outside of the Freudian analysis of Hemingway’s personality, Lynn also details Hemingway’s development as a writer, from early high school efforts to his work as a journalist at the Kansas City Star and later at the Toronto Star to his literary and writing education in Paris.
At about the time I was reading the biography, my own yearnings to be a writer were surfacing. So the biography provided a blueprint of a writer’s development, sort of perfect for someone who had no idea how to start.
Of course, Hemingway’s life was appealing to someone who had grown up in a small town, hadn’t traveled, hadn’t really done much of anything except complete his freshman semester at a c0mmunity college. I couldn’t help but imagine myself becoming a journalist, traveling, going to Paris to learn to write.