In this month’s installment of The Biographer’s Craft, editor Jamie McGrath points readers toward an ongoing debate in the British press on the health of and general outlook for biographies. And it’s well worth a look.
Leading the pack is Kathryn Hughes — biographer of George Eliot — who argues in The Guardian that biographies are teetering on the edge of irrelevance, thanks largely to . . . well, any number of factors, ranging from an obsession with celebrity bios (and, among British readers, royal mistress bios in particular) to shoddy research and unreasonable deadlines and advances. Oh, and she also unloads on Amanda Foreman (of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire fame) for being a lightweight who singlehandedly brought biography down into the gutter. I’m not certain I agree with everything Hughes has to say — she seems a little too downbeat and testy — but Hughes is always a good read. Click here to go get it.
Firing back in the pages of The Independent, columnist John Walsh defends Amanda Foreman and accuses Kathryn Hughes of sour grapes. But all in a very polite British manner, of course. You can read Walsh’s column here.
Finally, in London’s Times — under a headline only the British could get away with (“Bitchiness Breaks Out In World of Biography”) — Maurice Chittenden argues that more ladies need to borrow a page from Amanda Foreman and pose in the raw as part of their promotional tours. Or at least something like that. You can read it here.
Why aren’t we having debates like this on this side of the pond?