Lives of the Novelists

From the Introduction:

Is there a right way to write a literary life? In this collection of my columns from the New York Sun, I explore the relationship between narrative and literary analysis in the lives of novelists. It seems to me—even when the biographer is resistant to the analogy—that biography most resembles the novel. After all, very few biographies have been written in the form of plays or poems. But should a biography of a novelist be written in the style and form of a novel? How to balance the life and the work? How much literary criticism can a biography absorb into its narrative? That I keep coming back to these questions suggests that there are no answers to suit everyone, and that biographers have employed different stratagems to limn the lives of novelists. If the questions cannot be definitively answered, exploration of how they are handled will provide, I believe, an enlarged sense of what is possible in literary biography, and what makes the genre an art. Too often reviewers treat biographies as merely conveyers of content—or at best critics consign a single paragraph to praising or blaming the biographer at hand. It seems to me, however, as a practicing biographer, that there are an infinite number of ways of writing literary biography—as many ways as there are of writing novels.