Biography and Memoirs

Nick Haslam reviews 'How I Rescued My Brain'

Nick Haslam
Thursday, 25 September 2014

The brain, notes philosopher Paul Churchland, is the engine of reason and the seat of the soul. David Roland’s memoir of stroke and its aftermath presents a vivid picture of engine failure and a soul unseated. His book lays bare the disorienting realities of brain injury and his gradual but faltering steps towards recovery. In time he adjusts to having a somewhat ...

Desley Deacon reviews the new biography of Shirley Temple

Desley Deacon
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lucky Shirley Temple! Film star biographies are usually made up of a chronology laced with doubtful studio publicity and salacious gossip. But The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is written by a reigning scholar of American culture, John F. Kasson. A professor of History and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kass ...

Luke Horton reviews 'Boyhood Island'

Luke Horton
Tuesday, 23 September 2014

In Boyhood Island, the third volume in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s internationally acclaimed My Struggle cycle, we are taken back to where the series began: an island in southern Norway, seven-year-old Karl Ove and his older brother Yngve live under the tyranny of a cruel and taciturn father in the mid-1970s. Unlike the first volume, A Death in the Fami ...

Peter Rose on Erik Jensen

Peter Rose
Tuesday, 23 September 2014
Peter Rose reviews Erik Jensen’s unusual memoir of his relationship with the troubled artist Adam Cullen. ... (read more)

Susan Magarey reviews Ann Moyal's new memoir

Susan Magarey
Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ann Moyal was born in 1926, so now she is heading towards her ninetieth birthday. She has already launched a work of autobiography into the world, written in her mid-sixties. But her life did not, then, ‘take a quieter turn’. On the contrary, she tells us, ‘I’d continued to spend my ageing life with passion, involvement, and intensity.’ And that has inspir ...

Doug Wallen reviews 'Elvis has left the building'

Doug Wallen
Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Usually the subject’s death signals the end of a biography, but for Dylan Jones it is the starting point. Three decades after his death in 1977, Elvis Presley has proven even more ubiquitous, and lucrative, than he was in life. When he died – with the official cause listed as heart failure, but a vast cocktail of drugs playing an undeniable role – his manager, ...

How a writer bears witness to his age is necessarily the expression of many things, not least the possibly quite peculiar nature of an author’s life. Literary works often emerge from complex upbringings, from periods of youthful isolation spent reading and writing. More still seem to have been written as a result of the fraught relationships that befall authors, p ...

Albert O. Hirschman (1915–2012) was a development economist and political theorist whose work is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding how economic life figures in the political worlds we inhabit and the ways in which we give meaning to our lives in market-based societies. Perhaps best known for the distinction between ‘exit’ and ‘voice’ ...

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews 'A Spy among Friends'

Sheila Fitzpatrick
Monday, 25 August 2014

Harold Adrian Russell (Kim) Philby was the Third Man of the notorious Cambridge spy network set up in the 1930s and partially unmasked in the early 1950s, when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow. He had been in British intelligence (MI6) since the beginning of the war, but had been working for Soviet intelligence for some years before that. A high-flyer, ...

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Music at Midnight'

Ian Donaldson
Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Disdaining the opening moves traditionally associated with literary biography – the expected orderly progress through ancestry, parentage, birth, schooling, juvenilia – John Drury’s masterly new account of the life and poetry of George Herbert begins instead with the poem that Drury sees as Herbert’s finest work, written in mid-career, ‘Love (III)’. Herb ...