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Biography: A Very Short Introduction (review)

Biography: A Very Short Introduction (review) REVIEWS Hermione Lee. Biography: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. xiv + 170 pp. ISBN 978-0199533547, $11.95. While not a very short book, this is a short and very good book about biog- raphy. (It could be made twenty pages shorter by deleting the fairly pointless illustrations.) The author proceeds often historically, using examples mostly from British literary biographies to illustrate or provide exceptions to various generalizations about biographies. The book is not exactly an introduction, since the author’s examples will far exceed the familiarity of any reader, much less any novice reader. But the author provides an engaging overview of the kinds and purposes of biographies over the centuries. And this leads to a solid and wide-ranging sense of what we are up to when we write and read about the lives of others. The author does not give in to the unfortunately popular academic no- tion that biography really is fi ction after all. Of course, for a biography to be comprehensible it requires a selection of the facts: “No biographer is going to write down every single thing the subject did, said, and thought . . . or the book would take longer http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

Biography: A Very Short Introduction (review)

Biography , Volume 33 (4) – Mar 23, 2011

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © Biographical Research Center
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

REVIEWS Hermione Lee. Biography: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford UP, 2009. xiv + 170 pp. ISBN 978-0199533547, $11.95. While not a very short book, this is a short and very good book about biog- raphy. (It could be made twenty pages shorter by deleting the fairly pointless illustrations.) The author proceeds often historically, using examples mostly from British literary biographies to illustrate or provide exceptions to various generalizations about biographies. The book is not exactly an introduction, since the author’s examples will far exceed the familiarity of any reader, much less any novice reader. But the author provides an engaging overview of the kinds and purposes of biographies over the centuries. And this leads to a solid and wide-ranging sense of what we are up to when we write and read about the lives of others. The author does not give in to the unfortunately popular academic no- tion that biography really is fi ction after all. Of course, for a biography to be comprehensible it requires a selection of the facts: “No biographer is going to write down every single thing the subject did, said, and thought . . . or the book would take longer

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 23, 2011

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