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Works On Paper: The Craft of Biography and Autobiography

Michael Holroyd

4 Reviews

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Biography: general, Prose: non-fiction

* A brilliant selection of letters, essays and reviews written over the last quarter of a century by our pre-eminent biographer.

Michael Holroyd opens with a startling attack on biography, which is answered by two essays on the ethics and values of non-fiction writing. The book then examines the work of several contemporary biographers, the place of biography in fiction and of fiction in biography, and the revelations of some extravagant autobiographers, from Osbert Sitwell to Quentin Crisp - to which he adds some adventures of his own, in particular an important and unpublished piece THE MAKING OF GBS, a riveting story of deadly literary warfare.

The book ends with a series of satires, celebrations, apologias and polemics which throw light not only on Michael Holroyd's progress as a biographer, but also his record as an embattled campaigner in the field of present-day literary politics.

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Praise for Works On Paper: The Craft of Biography and Autobiography

  • His views expressed with humour and elan on figures ranging from Sitwell to Quentin Crisp are a feast for the mind. - INDEPENDENT

  • Holroyd is an engaging, stimulating commentator who never reduces his academic work to accessible fatuity. He is gently but firmly persuasive of the value of biography. - OBSERVER

  • If anyone still doubts that biographers are "proper" writers, rather than mere transcribers of life's rich record, then they should read this book. - NEW STATESMAN

  • He remains an eloquent advertisement for the power of biography to animate what would otherwise be forgotten. - SUNDAY TIMES

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Michael Holroyd

Michael Holroyd was born in 1935, and educated at Eton and the Maidenhead Public Library. His biographies of Hugh Kingsmill, Lytton Strachey, Augustus John and Bernard Shaw have established him as one of the most influential biographers of modern times. He was awarded the CBE in 1989 and was knighted in 2007. He is married to novelist Margaret Drabble and lives in London and Somerset.

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