New Books for April - Biography

I was at Adyar Bookshop last night to listen to the fascinating Barry Eaton talk about his wonderful new book Afterlife. While there I bumped into an old customer, a charming and friendly woman who recognised me instantly and told me she still always reads my blog! What a delight it was to hear that. Sometimes the blogger becomes dispirited, thinking that no-one looks or cares, so it is wonderful to be reminded that you do in fact have a silent readership. She commented on my piles of books, and I had to assure her that I always read them. While at Adyar last night I picked up a CD I had been wanting for a long time, a collection of sacred music compiled by Caroline Myss and sung by the Bellissima Opera called Voices of the Sacred - it really is something else. So I've popped it on now and will tell you about the enormous pile of biographical material I have to read this month. From the top:

  • E. M. Forster: A New Life by Wendy Moffat - I adore Forster, and have been wanting to read this one for a long while. It has been quite controversial because Moffat had really examined the queer aspect of Forster's life, which leaves a lot of people squeamish. Me, I love it.
  • A Superficial Journey Through Tokyo and Peking by Peter Quennell - More travel than memoir, I know, but I thought I could squeeze it in here. This is an obscure book, originally published in 1932 (the year my beautiful grandmother was born, as it happens). I had to grab it when I saw it in a second-hand bookstore because Quennell was a friend of Nancy Mitford's.
  • Memoirs by Tennessee Williams - Prepare for an onslaught during my continued Williams obsession.
  • Tennessee Williams in Provincetown by David Kaplan - This is kooky and should be great. A book about Williams' gay life in Provincetown and all of the tragic romances he had there.
  • Tennesse Williams by Harry Rasky
  • Five O'Clock Angel: Letter of Tennessee Williams to Maria St. Just - No idea who Maria St. Just was, but this is a massive book, so am sure to have a pretty good idea by the end.
  • Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams by Lyle Leverich
  • The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams by Donald Spoto
  • Tennessee Williams: An Intimate Biography by Dakin Williams - His brother.
  • Life Itself by Elaine Dundy - I found out about this book while reading Simon Callow's wonderful My Life in Pieces. Dundy was Kenneth Tynan's ex-wife, and apparently she spills the dirt in this book.
  • Vietnamerica by G. B. Tran - All of the Vietnam Twitterverse was a-chatter about this one, so I had to get it. It looks intriguing, a "graphic memoir" - something I've never read before (unless you count Maus as memoir?).
  • Under the Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin - This has so much coverage in the literary world, and I knew I had to have it.
  • The Million Dollar Mermaid by Esther Williams - I was chatting to an elderly gay friend one day and he mentioned this book and how camp and marvellous it was. The next day I was in a second-hand bookshop and there it was on a table, staring out at me. The Universe was telling me something. I would probably have purchased it anyway. Let me put it on record: Esther Williams is fabulous.
  • Ustinov at Large by Peter Ustinov - Again prompted by the wonderfully literate Simon Callow. I remember when I worked at a second-hand bookshop we were always swimming in Ustinov books (he does seem to have been rather prolific) and it put me off them somewhat. But Callow sings his praises and claims he is an overlooked genius (possibly because of his enormous capacity for work and output). So I am about to give him a go.
  • The Sixities: Diaries 1960-1969 by Christopher Isherwood - Isherwood is a long-term fascination of mine, and I know I will find these diaries incredibly diverting reading. With his twin obsessions with sex and religion, I always find Isherwood quite intriguing, and a man before his time.


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