Tuesday, June 09, 2009

long weekends and biographers

What a nice long weekend it was... Now back at work, thankfully it is all less hectic than last week. Last week we were organising an awards dinner for Friday night, and it was all a bit busy. But now the dinner has come and gone, I got to witness bankers dancing to 'I will Survive' (quite an experience) and I see the awards are in the paper today! Well, in a very small article, but they are there, and I was involved with them, so it is a little bit exciting. Other than that, had pretty much a perfect long weekend, I saw some family and friends, was briefly at the Jazz festival in Darling Harbour, saw the art exhibition I wanted to before it closed, and got to watch Twilight and When Harry Met Sally. When Harry Met Sally is pretty much the best movie ever. Twilight is... well... it makes a bit more sense, plot-wise, than the book? Probably?

I would like to rant about the book that I'm currently reading, have also been wanting to write a post about ranting in general, but that can wait. I went to the bookshop the other day, having run out of book, and having no idea what I wanted to read decided it would be interesting to get Agatha Christie's autobiography. By all accounts Agatha Christie had a fairly interesting life, spending some time with her archaeologist husband on digs around the world, and I have an interest in both archaeology and Agatha Christie. Unfortunately, the bookshop did not have the autobiography, but they did have several biographies. At this point I made the mistake of judging a book by its cover, combined with the mistake of looking for the cheapest book.

Now you may think that is silly, but the cheaper book was also much larger, and looked fairly authoritative, and so I fell for it. Some way in I was reminded of Possession and its view of the biography industry, the way that biographers can come to feel they own their subjects. This particular writer has a quirk of telling us what Agatha Christie and her family members would have been thinking at various points. It's a bit grating to me. There is also what seems to be a lack of understanding of the background of the time. For instance, she talks about Agatha Christie's views on women, saying something like this: those views are not very palatable today, but Agatha Christie also had insight and saw that women had power to influence men and thought that this was positive. But if you read literature written around that time, you see those views are not at all unique- for instance they cropped up in Howards End, which I read recently. Also she uses the term 'Victorian' very broadly, without showing much understanding of the Victorian period.

These points bring me to my next issue: she is very judgemental of the figures she is writing about, and judgemental without a lot of regard for prevailing historical attitudes. She is constantly irritated that Agatha Christie had servants and was happy having servants, and that she basically participated in the class system of her day. The author describes Agatha's father thusly: "he was intelligent and charming, but he was a fool" (I have paraphrased, but she does use the word 'fool'). She does not apparently feel the need to justify this remark, but it seems it is because his finances went poorly. He was not backward in spending money, but apparently one of his trustees in America embezzled and one went insane. What a fool to have let that happen?

I will happily rant further if anyone would like to know more. :)


  1. Anonymous10/6/09 06:04

    I'll look forward to the rant rant.

  2. Yes! Tells us your views on things!