Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reading books or reading about writers: Which is more exciting?

The question is more relevant at this era of screen reading. Book reading has now become an academic issue that cannot be helped. This is not a judgment article of ethics; so concentration is more on the inquiry of excitement.
A life of Hemingway has so much elements to make one excited that the biography itself becomes a novel. It may be true to all writers. Because, every great writer created masterpieces from own life-time experiences. Shakespeare, Goethe, Edgar Ala Poe, Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, James Joyce- every milestone in our world of literature became icons of lifestyle. We all know two or more stories about them. Why did Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or what kind of extramarital platonic love Goethe had in his life etc. But how about reading ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Faust’?
To most of the readers, unless he is devoted to literature, these books are hard to go through; for their language and high standard of poetic aesthetics. So we are contended by knowing about the theme of the masterpiece. Romeo loved Juliet and they had some family disputes to face. But a poetic dialogue of Romeo! Heaven save us! Read the life of Shakespeare and find out the incidences and experiences of him those inspired him to write it. That would be more exciting.
Just take a poll on how many people like to read the books and how many like to read about the writers. My experience is, most of the people think that the book ought to be read but the writer’s life is more interesting. Why these things happen? There can be two explanations. One is very simple. Most of the people do not bother about poetic or artistic aesthetics of literature. They read something that is easy going. When a classic novel, poem or any other form of literature earn fame by authors and specialists they just become curious. Some of them try to get into it. They go to find the root of the fame in the person not the work.
The other explanation is little complicated and of course may be controversial. An individual live a life that is more or less meaningless to him. The usual livings make him tired. It’s hard for him to lay faith on anything great unless that is heavenly and comfort him thinking of next life. Reading a biography of a writer gives him the sense that even a great writer’s life had not much meaning as his. There was love, there was failure, there was anger and there was hatred. The difference is of skill; one could write one cannot. Just a skill can’t make a life more meaningful.
If any writer, sociologist, philosopher or poet read this article I will be highly obliged to have his or her comments on this analysis.


  1. I enjoyed the article. So informative

  2. I read your analysis with great interest.I agree with you on the ideas but must disagree on the form.
    It is true that today's literature has a different face. Isn't it also true that one will be recognized for its skills not by his generation but by the next one.
    Today we know of Shakespeare, Poe, Goeth... as great writers or thinkers. But during their times, there popularity were much in question.
    Who is today's author who will be revered tomorrow. We are not able to recognize it so focused on the icons of the passed.
    Isn't also this fact true in the world of art? One is interested to know their biography to understand what in their live has created the style so revered today. We are always enthralled by the underdog fighting for its believes and cheer for him but really we envy him or her.
    Isn't it also the eternal fairytale... with the the happy ending?

  3. I agree with you to some extent accept that eternal fairy tale. To my experience, reading a biography is not always complementary to knowing a writer. One may read hundreds of biographies without looking through a single art work. I was just wondering about them; what motivate them to do so. Thanks for the comment.