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There are a few writers whose lives and personalities are so large, so fascinating, that there's no such thing as a boring biography of them - you can read every new one that comes along, good or bad, and be caught up in the story all over again.
I've always been fascinated by books. When I was young, my grandfather used to hand out a book - which would be anything from a biography to a classic - to me every week and ask me to write a piece on what I thought about it. On the other hand, my mother used to love reading thrillers and bestsellers.
Whereas fiction is a continual discovery of what one wants to say, what one feels, what one means, and is, in that sense, a performance art, biography requires different skills - research and organization.
My biography of Jesus is probably the first popular biography that does not use the New Testament as its primary source material.
Reading a newspaper is like reading someone's letters, as opposed to a biography or a history. The writer really does not know what will happen. A novelist needs to feel what that is like.
A. S. Byatt
You can use a biography to examine political power, but only if you pick the right guy.
Discretion is not the better part of biography.
When I read Andrew Motion's biography, I wept. It's something about the purity of the story and how fresh it was because of the love letters Keats wrote.
Eight years ago, I was drawn into Keats's world by Andrew Motion's biography. Soon I was reading back and forth between Keats's letters and his poems. The letters were fresh, intimate and irreverent, as though he were present and speaking. The Keats spell went very deep for me.
Geography is about maps, but biography is about chaps.
I'm not one of those people who writes a biography or tries to figure out what kind of ice cream the character liked when he was 10.
Everything I write doesn't appear to be biography until later. I often say that I've never written about anything I've experienced. Of course, that's not true. But it doesn't appear familiar to me at all. And maybe that's because I have to be in a kind of coma in order to write. If it appeared familiar, I wouldn't.
Biography is one of the new terrors of death.
To show the American woman herself off to best advantage - that has always been my aim and that is my real biography.
Whether in print or other media, a good biography is more than a court record or a stringing together of already familiar sources. It breathes life into the subject.
Noel Riley Fitch
I often tell people who want to write historical fiction: don't read all that much about the period you're writing about; read things from the period that you're writing about. There's a tendency to stoke up on a lot of biography and a lot of history, and not to actually get back to the original sources.
We have escapist fiction, so why not escapist biography?
John Kenneth Galbraith
I suppose I'm proudest of my novels for what's imagined in them. I think the world of my imagination is a richer and more interesting place than my personal biography.
But for a few phrases from his letters and an odd line or two of his verse, the poet walks gagged through his own biography.
Biography - a system in which the contradictions of a human life are unified.
Jose Ortega y Gasset
Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.
A typical biography relying upon individuals' notorious memories and the anecdotes they've invented contains a high degree of fiction, yet is considered 'nonfiction.'
Joyce Carol Oates
It's so easy to use tired, shopworn figures of speech. I love using long, fancy words but have learned - mostly from writing my biography of Winston Churchill - that short, strong words work better. I am ever-vigilant against the passive and against jargon, both of which are so insidious.
Great writing can be done in biography, history, art.
V. S. Naipaul
The biography of a writer - or even the autobiography - will always have this incompleteness.
V. S. Naipaul
C. S. Lewis
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