Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Five best new ways of portraying lives

Lyndall Gordon's most recent book Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds is now available in paperback.

For the Wall Street Journal Gordon named a five best list of books with new ways of portraying lives, including:
Jane's Fame
by Claire Harman (2010)

'Jane's Fame' is a delightfully amusing history of Jane Austen's afterlife. Claire Harman's ironic voice is worthy of Austen herself, as she relates how the novelist was remodeled as inoffensive "dabbler" and then mounted on a pedestal as "Divine Jane." Families are wary of genius. Once fame is on the way, they strive to control it. So the Austen family alters an "ugly" portrait of the novelist to promote an image of pretty, modest, retiring lady. Harman undercuts this with a teasing denial from Austen herself: "I write only for Fame." Delving between the lines, Harman brings out the witty girl "hungry" for attention; the rejected novelist who perseveres to the point of "bloody-mindedness"; later an "assertive businesswoman" who finds her publisher a civil "Rogue." This writer is alive enough to counter the descendants of her family as they fight for possession of a genius they are too conventional to understand.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue