Life-writing, literature, popular culture.
Lots of life narrative stories have caught my eye in the past week…
Joe Fassler, ‘Why Jonathan Lethem Loves Meta-Nonfiction and Hates Superhero Flicks’, The Atlantic, 10 November 2011
Offering some useful reflections on nonfiction (and ‘creative nonfiction’) and its relation to constructed selves/identities, Fassler reviews Jonathan Lethem’s new collection of essays, The Ecstasy of Influence (Doubleday, 2011) and conducts an author interview. Fassler traces the book’s attempt to ‘unpack the authorial “I”’—those ‘alternative selves’ selected and adopted by nonfiction writers: ‘[Lethem] sits across from the public version of himself, and watches as his influences surface and his previous incarnations flit across his face.’
Britain In A Day, 12 November 2011
I blogged about this project (and its ‘parent’ project, Life In A Day) last week. Timed to coincide with the event, the Radio Times commissioned a ‘typical Saturday’ diary from Sir Terry Pratchett. Filming is complete, and now the selection, editing and post-production begins. Britain In A Day will be on our TV screens next year.
The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, 18 November 2011
Wolfson College, Oxford, launched its new Research Cluster—The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing—on 16 November with an inaugural lecture by Prof Michael Wood titled ‘All About his Mother: Reading Proust’s Letters’ (podcast also available). The Centre looks set to be an active and exciting hub for life-writing research understood in its broadest sense. Keep your eyes on their events and study opportunities!
Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Mackenzie memoirs banned for spilling spy secrets to be republished’, The Guardian, 18 November 2011
An unexpurgated edition of Compton Mackenzie’s war memoir, Greek Memories, will be published next month by Biteback Books. Norton-Taylor explores the furore surrounding its first appearance in 1932 and its subsequent supression by MI5 and MI6 due to the revelation of intelligence secrets (such as the ‘C’ codename for the head of MI6). Autobiography and memoir can be dangerous genres…
This Our Still Life (dir. by Andrew Kötting), 18 November 2011
Collagistic documentary, filmed over twenty years, following the life of director Andrew Kötting and his daughter, Eden, who was born with a rare genetic disorder. An intimate portrait of this father and daughter’s life together, focused in particular on the still-life painting performed by Eden. See Peter Bradshaw’s review in The Guardian.
‘Authors breathe new life into forgotten portraits’, thisislondon.co.uk, 18 November 2011
Portraiture meets imagined life narrative at the NPG between December 2011 and June 2012. Contemporary authors—including Julian Fellowes and Terry Pratchett—have imagined lives and identities to accompany fourteen Tudor portraits. Tracy Chevalier’s contribution sounds particularly intriguing. She ‘queers’ the public art gallery; behind the portrait of ‘a blushing young man’, she imagines the life of ‘an object of homosexual desire’. You can read Alexander McCall Smith’s story of ‘Mary Peebles’ in The Guardian, her life created to accompany a portrait once thought to depict Mary Queen of Scots.