Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Biography Project

Goals for 2012:
Lose 35 pounds
Improve my posture
Taste a food I've never tried before
Sell 10,000 copies of Fobbit

#1 is already on its way to happening since Jean and I, in typical cliche fashion, are starting a diet today (the 17-Day Diet, which we've tried before and have been successful with); #2 is directly tied to #1 since the gravity of my belly fat pulls my shoulders slouchward; #3 will most likely come after #1's success; and #4?  Well, that depends in large part upon you, dear blog reader.  You have my thanks starting now for whatever you can do to help me reach that goal once the novel launches later this year (still no firm date from Grove/Atlantic).

But buried among those New Year's resolutions is another idea I've been toying with--something I call The Biography Project.  Since 2012 is the year when this caterpillar of a writer will officially transform into a published butterfly (a Real! Legitimate! Writer!), I thought I'd devote the next twelve months to reading biographies of writers.  I'm always curious to see the men and women "behind the page" and learn how they came to write the books they did.  In this, my Year of Publication, maybe I can use their lives as roadmaps to how I should conduct myself as a writer (or, in the case of Richard Yates and Raymond Carver, how not to conduct myself).

Coupled with reading the biography, I plan to read one of that writer's works I've never before cracked open (when it comes to Flannery O'Connor, I'll read the entire Library of America edition of her works since I've already gone through her complete canon; same goes for Raymond Carver and Nathanael West).  First up will be Claire Tomalin's biography of Charles Dickens, along with The Haunted House, a collaborative project he wrote in 1859 with fellow Victorian novelists Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell (among others).  I've read all of the Dickens novels and so it was either The Haunted House or Pictures from Italy.  I'll save that one for when Jean and I go on our tour of Tuscany (date still undetermined).

Just a few of the lives under consideration

I don't know, maybe The Biography Project is doomed to failure.  There are, after all, so many new books which I want (need) to read in the coming months (Richard Ford's Canada, Stewart O'Nan's The Odds: A Love Story, and Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue to name just a few).  I'll probably be so overwhelmed by new Want-To's and Need-To's that the biographies will peter out after a few weeks or months.

For now, though, this is one of my foremost goals: to examine the writer's life and learn what I can about success and failure.  And if there happen to be a few diet secrets in the biographies, well then, all the better.


  1. Excellent goals, David! and I hope you bat a thousand. As a Boomer runner, I urge you to add running to your schedule. Also, any desire to read Tomalin's bio of Thomas Hardy or have you already read it? Per 2012 novels that may distract, I'm awaiting "The Cove" by Ron Rash. His "Serena" was a masterpiece.

    Finally, here in Portland we're all anxiously awaiting your novel. Cheers! and Happy New Year.

  2. Thanks! So far, so good with the Biography Project. I finished off Haruki Murakami's "1Q84" and Karen Russell's "Swamplandia!" today--two books which were hangovers from 2011--so it's full steam ahead on Tomalin's "Dickens" now. Thanks for reminding me about her biography of Thomas Hardy. I don't have that here in my library, but I will certainly hunt it down. I need to read more Hardy. ~~Actually, after looking at my book log, I see I need to read *any* Hardy. Hmm, somehow I escaped reading him during my undergrad and graduate education. How could that be? I loved Roman Polanski's "Tess," that should count for something, right?
    And Ron Rash's "The Cove"? That is definitely on my wish list. Like you, I thought "Serena" was a masterpiece.