Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I like to read a decent biography over the Christmas holidays. It's become a bit of a tradition, a midwinter escape into someone else's life. This Christmas I read A Lucid Dreamer: the Life of Peter Redgrove by Neil Roberts and Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness, a Biography by Edward Butscher.

I'd been drawn to the Redgrove biography for a while. His reputation for strange visionary poetry and his background in analytic psychology sounded irresistible. I hoped it would help me approach his poetry which I've yet to get a great deal out of. Interesting though it is there is sadly very little in the way of poetry analysis or the relation of individual poems to his life. It certainly doesn't hold back on the many personal details about his life and while I applaud the openness, I feel I probably know more about him than I really want to!
I thought it was about time I got around to reading Edward Butscher's biography of Sylvia Plath. His book was the very first full-length biography written about Plath - published in 1976, thirteen years after her death. I wasn't expecting a great deal from the book having read many more recent biographies of her but was greatly surprised and pleased at the attention given to her poems and her creative progress in the book. In fact I think it's an excellent analysis of her life and writing and his tackling of her poems is insightful and stands up as well as any of the later studies written with the benefit of historical distance.

I daresay any fan of Redgrove would be delighted to read the Neil Robert's biography, if and when I get into his poems I'll probably go back and re-read it and enjoy it more. I'd thoroughly recommend the Butscher biography for those actually interested in Plath's work, rather than just the tragic mythic tale.   


Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t avoid biographies but I don’t go looking for them. Unless it’s someone like Beckett; I’ve read three on him. Looking at my shelves the biographies I’ve bought myself do tell a story: Morecombe and Wise, John Cleese, Tony Hancock, Peter Cook, Woody Allen… Not many not about comics. I have been reading a lot over the Christmas period though and I can’t seem to stop (so I’m not stopping). I was getting through a novella a day and even a whole novel on one day. Unprecedented! Don’t know what’s gone right with my brain but for as long as it wants books to read I’ll keep feeding it. I know me, it could (and most likely will) stop as mysteriously as it all started. Last year I read over ninety books. Ninety! I used to keep a list of the books I’d read when I was in my early twenties and I remember (I must have been about twenty-two at the time) and all the books I’d read since leaving school amounted to eighty-eight; not sure why that figure’s stuck in my mind but that was it. Eighty-eight books in six years! Granted they were all good books but that was the pace I read at. So I’m not writing much at the moment (just as well I’ve got a stockpile of posts) but I can’t afford to get too comfortable.

Marion McCready said...

Wow - ninety books!!! I don't read a great deal in the way fiction. I love a good biography, one of the ones I've enjoyed the most over the last couple of years was Hilary Clinton's autobiography - so impressed with that woman!