Some popular author biographies include Joseph Frank’s “Dostoyevsky: A Writer in His Time,” Tracy Daugherty’s “Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme” and Hermione Lee’s “Virginia Woolf.” These literary biographies all receive strong reviews from critics.
Harvard literature professor Joseph Frank dedicated much of his career to an exhaustive five-volume biography of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but the resulting 2,500-page work is primarily of interest to academics. Frank’s “Dostoyevsky: A Writer in His Time” condenses the mammoth work into a comparatively readable 984 pages. Frank situates Dostoyevsky’s work in a historical and social context, making this the definitive biography of the eminent novelist.
Donald Barthelme revolutionized the short story during the 1960s, bringing a level of playfulness, erudition and experimentation to the pages of The New Yorker, where much of his work appeared. Tracy Daugherty, a former student of Barthelme’s, wrote “Hiding Man,” a nuanced, sympathetic portrait of a complex, troubled writer. Covering Barthelme’s early life in Houston, Texas, his bohemian heyday in New York City and his travels around the world, Daugherty’s biography acknowledges the writer’s genius and his flaws.
Scholar Hermione Lee's biography of Virginia Woolf received high acclaim. Focusing on Woolf’s personal correspondence, early childhood and extensive close readings of her writing, Lee offers a comprehensive portrait of the novelist’s life and work.