Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?
I can think of two examples of biographies that brought me closer to authors, and happier to love them. What Fresh Hell is This by Marion Meade took me beyond the legend of Dorothy Parker. I always knew that she had been witty and had been part of the glittering, witty world of the Algonquin Round Table. I had no idea that she had been involved in the trial and executions of Sacco and Vanzetti.
- (I first read the letters of Sacco and Vanzetti in 7th grade. Every Jewish child of politically aware parents knew about the Rosenbergs, so my aversion to capital punishment was set early. The case of these two anarchists whose letters moved me so deeply so early turned my hatred for capital punishment into the first immutable moral decision that has informed my life.)
(I wonder what she would have thought of her page on Facebook?)
I always have loved the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Prayer to Persephone always makes me cry.
PRAYER TO PERSEPHONE
Be to her, Persephone,
All the things I might not be;
Take her head upon your knee.
She that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
She that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Hell,--Persephone,
Take her head upon your knee;
Say to her, "My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here."
Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford brought me into her brave, fragile, daring, glittering, heartbreaking world, with details about her mother, her sisters, and her strange, sad relationship with her father. Yes, I loved her more after I read this book (and What Lips My Lips Have Kissed by Daniel Mark Epstein, which I liked but did not love). (And yes, I wonder what would she have thought about her page on Facebook?)