Of all literary genres, biography is not a favourite with me. I am overly cautious with the kinds of biographies that I read, and the thought of autobiographies written by self-proclaimed living legends is at best weird. With this bias, each time that I am asked to write something about my own biography, I am excessively challenged. To all of this there is one exception, the biographies of writers.
As the years go by I do get more and more curious about other people’s lives, and I do read more biographies than I used to. I am however very fond of journals written by either writers, painters and the like of folks inclined to a bohemian life. I read those more to comfort me than anything else, and there find the sought solace that somehow we all struggle with the same crap.
Just a few days ago I was asked about what book I have read that Doris Lessing wrote that I really liked. It is not one of those that are most frequently cited although I have read Children of Violence, the one that made a mark on me is The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five. I started reading her books some thirty years ago. Going back now to refresh my memory of who Doris Lessing is and what her work is about brings an interesting perspective to my own likes and dislikes. I have not read all her work, and somehow it would be a good idea. Clearly she is my kind of man.
Norman Mailer is dead, and of all men, dead ones fascinate me the most, they are complete works of art. I have never read any of the works of Norman Mailer, yet that does not prevent me from getting curious about his life’s envelope. Not knowing his work – and there is a reason why I have managed to avoid it besides some excuse of not enough time – I still shy away from searching of a biography to read – really I am always behind in my reading – and I stick with the interviews and the Wikipedia entry. What makes a writer a writer? What makes a Norman Mailer himself? What makes each one of us the self whom we are?
I have spent now over two years busy with my own belly button contemplation in a protracted and mesmerizing vertigo that has taken me to recesses of some psychological labyrinth to glean a wink of ported enlightenment. Emerging out of this tunnel I find myself in new land. Where was I born?
Does the answer really matter?