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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Curiosity About People's Lives

“Why do we read biography? Why do we choose to write it? Because we are human beings, programmed to be curious about other human beings, and to experience something of their lives. This has always been so - look at the Bible, crammed with biographies, very popular reading.” – Claire Tomalin

Known for biographies of such luminaries as Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austin, among others, Tomalin was born in London on this date in 1933.  After her first husband, journalist Nicholas Tomalin, was killed while working as a war correspondent, she decided to try writing herself.   She worked in publishing and journalism as literary editor of the New Statesman, then The Sunday Times, while bringing up her 5 children.  In 1974 she turned to biography with The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, which earned her the coveted Whitbread Book Award.  It also set her on a writing path that produced 10 bestselling biographies and won her over a dozen top prizes.

She said one of the books she has most enjoyed writing (and is considered one of the best ever on her subject) was Charles Dickens: A Life, published in 2011.

“Everyone finds their own version of Charles Dickens,” she said.   “The child-victim, the irrepressibly ambitious young man, the reporter, the demonic worker, the tireless walker. The radical, the protector of orphans, helper of the needy, man of good works, the republican. The hater and the lover of America. The giver of parties, the magician, the traveler.”  
              “Dickens . . . was a writer who rightly saw his power as coming through his fiction.”

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