Claire Harman speaks with Caroline Sanderson about the painstaking, and sometimes obsessive art of literary biography, and how careful detective work can bring new insights into even the most written-about lives.
The life of a writer is always provisional, uncertain, insecure, fluctuating, and I cannot tell you how you might avoid that floating state; there are no shortcuts.
I recognised the wonderful sensation the skydivers were describing. When the writing is going well, my sense of self melts away; all those everyday concerns, that internal tiresome dialogue, abates. I lose the sense of time passing.
The compulsion to write is paradoxically both a celebration of life, and a protest at its passing; not that I think about this when I'm actually at my desk with a pen in my hand.
Her mother’s worsening dementia made Penny Hancock realise how important it is for people to feel at home — and why so many writers identify with a specific place.
Researching her study of the artist Gwen John, Alicia Foster was struck by the attic setting of many of John’s paintings. This led her to a wider exploration of the role played by the attic room in art and literature.
Material possessions fail to quell his self-loathing or heal, or avert, the divisions and disasters abundant in his world; reading the book as a student in Thatcher's London it subtly but perfectly reflected the culture around me.
One of the great pleasures of re-reading something is that the pressure is off. You can skip the bits you don't fancy revisiting and just read the bits you love, secure in the knowledge that you haven't missed anything.