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Virginia Woolf's nose : essays on biography
Lee, Hermione.
Adult Nonfiction PR106 .L44 2005

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The author of an important biography of Virginia Woolf and one of Willa Cather, Lee is well versed in the challenges the genre poses. Where should biographers start, and how do they know where to stop? Where do the facts of someone's life end and its fictions begin? Biographies, Lee writes, are made up of "contested objects-relics, testimonies, versions, correspondences, the unverifiable." In four pithy, accessible and philosophical essays, Lee scrutinizes some notable case studies while emphasizing biography's inherent instability. She dredges up "eyewitness" accounts of the burial of Romantic poet Shelley's drowned corpse, comparing and contrasting them to reveal mythmaking embellishments. She analyzes some of the choices made by biographers of Samuel Pepys, whose densely detailed diaries cover only a finite period of his life, outside of which biographers must hypothesize. And she strikes a rich vein of cultural criticism when she examines the complex "creative translation" of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway into the novel The Hours by Michael Cunningham and the 2003 film of the same name. Lamenting aspects of how the film represents Woolf, and in particular her suicide, Lee summarizes and explores the film's reception among Woolf scholars and lay readers alike. Lee's immensely enjoyable study will energize debate among thoughtful readers and should become essential reading for aficionados of literary biography. Agent, Pat Kavanagh. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

As a biographer of Virginia Woolf, Philip Roth, Willa Cather, and Elizabeth Bowen, Lee (Oxford Univ.) is able to give the reader an authoritative glimpse of the difficulties that must be overcome when tackling a literary biography. In this brief study, she presents a variety of case studies "where a biographer is faced with gaps, absences and unproved stories" and successfully depicts the problematical and frustrating aspects of biography. The studies cover a remarkably wide field for such a slim volume, with topics including the necessity of paraphrasing and the sin of omission that such paraphrasing may cause (e.g., Samuel Pepys); the family's control of the biography (e.g., Percy Bysshe Shelley, Jane Austen); the effects of fictionalized film versions (e.g., Virginia Woolf); and the "fight from the death over facts, between the participants in a life and the writers of it." Well written, insightful, and enjoyable, this book is recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Paolina Taglienti, Las Vegas Coll., NV (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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