Some interesting thinking about biography taking place on One-Way Street and The Reading Experience. My own Road to Damascus moment came during a light-headed, tingly drive home last night, when I realized that I should stop sweating the upcoming class, stop trying to be Professor Effing Know-It-All, & let the syllabus take its own scrappy, partial, & opinionated route.
It doesn't help matters that Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman & Richard Holmes's Dr. Johnson and Mr. Savage – two of my money texts – are now out of print. But I think I've found the decent overview book: Catherine Parke's Biography: Writing Lives (Routledge 2002). Yes, I was put off by the fact that the book was originally published by Twayne, but then I reflected that after all, some of those Twayne volumes are pretty decent (& there's nothing worse than press-based snobbery – after all, why wasn't I put off by its being published by Routledge, which has published some of the most high-octane vapid theoretical silliness in recent years?). And on examination, Parke turns out to be pretty good – it probably helps that she doesn't seen to be a biographer herself, therefore doesn't have her weenie in any particular argumentative campfires.
I am officially in love with Jane Austen. & inclined to agree with Scott Mackenzie, who all those years ago, at a table in Eugene, Oregon, several pitchers into the pub's stock of some nice local microbrew, opined that it just didn't get any better than Emma.
And like Bilbo Baggins, feeling spread too thin, like butter over too much toast, at least in the writing department. Too many notebooks – the little Moleskines for poetry drafts and general observations, the big green commonplace book, the new large-format Moleskine that's filling up with thoughts & quotations on biographical matters, the very private personal journals – and of course Culture Industry, which believe it or not takes up more time than it takes to type.
A colleague passed me a brace of CDs containing the MP3s of what looks like the entire Bruce Springsteen corpus. Me a Springsteen fan? Well, not really, tho I can listen & appreciate when I manage to tune out the general cultish cultural static, the deification of the man. But I'm reminded of why I didn't buy The River when it first came out: the title song must be among the saddest five or ten lyrics I've ever heard. (Right up there with "Donna, Donna" or "The Poor Boy Is Taken Away," if you know what I mean.) Almost more than my tender sentimental heart can stand, tho I've listened to it a half dozen times over the last two days.