A bevy of biographies

Dear Charlie,

I’m not ignoring you, honestly. I’ve just been out of your sphere of influence in my reading/watching materials lately. But I have added another book to my growing number of biographies of you. I’m now the proud owner of Claire Tomalin’s biography, bringing the total of Charles-Dickens-biographies-I-own-and-have-not-yet-read to three.


When I started my year-long reading project, I sort of intended to read at least Forster’s biography as I went along, and I did make it through the first couple of chapters, but you wrote so frickin’ much, my friend, that I quickly abandoned that plan in favour of just keeping up with your writings. So, while I dipped in to your life occasionally (I confess I resorted to Wikipedia more than once), I haven’t yet read one of your biographies cover to cover. But now that I’ve put some distance between myself and that marathon o’ reading, I find I’m missing your charming company. (That and I’m still trying to shake the creepy residue that Dan Simmons’ book left on my brain, so reading a biography where you’re NOT portrayed as a hyperactive sociopath sounds really good.)

Assuming that my next read is one of these fine biographies, which one should I start with? I’m sure that you’d rather I begin and end with Forster, whom you knew and trusted not to include anything too salacious or derogatory, but where’s the fun in that? I confess to finding the sheer heft of Ackroyd’s book more than a little intimidating. I’m leaning towards Tomalin’s book, because a) I’m trying to read more books by female authors this year, b) it got good reviews, and c) now that I’m cycling to work again, this volume would be much easier to fit in a pannier without making my bike tip over.

Or perhaps I should add to my biography collection and seek out a few more before I make my decision. Simon Callow’s, Jane Smiley’s and Michael Slater’s books also look really interesting.

What do you think, Charlie? Which biographer “gets” the real you? Where should I start?



P.S. In other news, I was feeling quite accomplished having surpassed the 100,000 visitor mark, until I started going through my blog’s spam filters. Now I suspect that half my visitors have, in fact, been soulless spam robots intent on getting me to buy viagra, fake running shoes and purses, and to watch celebrity sex tapes. There are a lot of things you’d like about the 21st century, Charlie, but spam would definitely not be one of them. :-/ -M