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Lives for Sale

Biography is well recognised as a peculiarly British vice. This new anthology is a collection of essays by some of the best biographers now writing in Britain. They tell of the ups and downs of life writing: of problems with families and friends of their subjects, of shocking new discoveries, and of bitter professional rivalries. Essays in favour of biography, others that describe disenchantment with an attempt to capture another human being in the pages of a book. First published in the autumn of 2004 - to coincide with the appearance of the most important British publishing enterprise of the new century to date, the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - this new in paperback edition of Lives For Sale is full of amusing anecdotes and fascinating experiences retold by some of the masters of the form, including Michael Holroyd, Claire Tomalin, Fiona MacCarthy, Graham Robb, Andrew Roberts, Hermione Lee, Margaret Forster, Jenny Uglow, Antonia Fraser, as well as contributions from the rising generation, and an essay by Beryl Bainbridge on 'Waiting for the Biographer'.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Mark Bostridge; Preface; The Death Mask - Lyndali Gordon; Personality Rights - Andrew Wilson; A Narcissist's Wedding - Graham Robb; Confessions of a Long-Distance Biographer - Robert Skidelsky; A Great House Full of Rooms - Hermione Lee; A Love Triangle - Frances Wilson; Pantherine - Jeremy Lewis; Rebecca's Ghost - Margaret Forster; Breaking In - Andrew Motion; Archives - Diamaid MacCulloch; Glendower's Syndrome - Hillary Spurling; The Dictionary Man - Brian Harrison; Polar Gap - Sara Wheeler; Starting Over - Claire Tomalin; Ipplepen 269 - Mark Bostridge; Optical Research - Antonia Fraser; Catching Trout - Frances Spalding; La-Di-Dah - Andrew Roberts; My Race Not To Be The Second Primo - Ian Thomson; Stuff With Raw Edges - Lucasta Miller; No Respect - John Sutherland; Fever - Kathryn Hughes; Caught in the Net - Ann Wroe; Finding A Good Woman - Michael Holroyd; Brushstrokes - Ben Pimlott; Baptism by Fire - Fiona MacCarthy; He Put my Brother in iis Book - D.J. Taylor; Manuscript Moments - Jenny Uglow; Tarts - Jane Ridley; The Hand from the Grave - Miranda Seymour; Who Is Sylvia? - Claire Harman; Feeling Byronic - T.J. Binyon; And Waiting for the Biographer - Beryl Bainbridge; Biographies

About the Author

Mark Bostridge's books include Vera Brittain: A Life, shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography Award, the NCR Prize for Non-Fiction, and the Fawcett Prize, and the bestselling Letters From a Lost Generation. He is currently writing a biography of Florence Nightingale.


Libraries are full of biographies, yet all those life histories have to be researched and written. A biographer himself, Bostridge (Vera Brittain: A Life) has collected essays from 33 biographers that address the challenges and triumphs of the biographer. While there are certainly varying points of view set forth, there are some distinctly common themes here, most notably the difficulty in finding accurate source material, accounting for the less interesting years in a subject's life, conjuring feelings of kinship with one's subject, and, ultimately, attaining a new understanding or insight into the subject's motivations. Concerns for accuracy and detail seem to cut across all biographers' discussion of their work, and how they respond to this need is varied and will be of interest to those writers and historians looking to take up the art. The book's focus on British biographers and their mostly British subjects may reduce interest for general American libraries, but it will be useful in specialized biography and literature collections. A similar, yet distinctly more engaging viewpoint is offered in Gale E. Christianson's very subjective Writing Lives Is the Devil!: Essays of a Biographer at Work.-Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"An impressive group of writers" Sunday Telegraph; "A valuable compendium of the biographer's art by some of the leading practitioners" Catholic Herald; "Gently amusing and occasionally perceptive collection of biographers' confessions" Guardian"

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