In Oranges and Peanuts for Sale, Eliot Weinberger writes, “The writing of writers tends to last longer than standard literary criticism, and not only because it is better written. Critics explain their subjects; in writer’s books, the subject is explaining the author.”
A short shelf of writers writing on writers that forever changed how I read those writers:
- Simone Weil’s The Iliad, or the Poem of Force
- Robert Duncan’s The H. D. Book
- André Gide’s Dostoevsky
- Colm Tóibín’s On Elizabeth Bishop
- Hélène Cixous’ Reading with Clarice Lispector
- John Cowper Powys’ Dorothy Richardson
- Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson
- H. D.’s Tribute to Freud
- T. S. Eliot’s Dante
- Hélène Cixous’s Zero’s Neighbour: Sam Beckett
- Dorothy L. Sayers’ Papers on Dante
I’ve been particular with definition here, choosing only single study books written by writers with an accomplished body of their own work. Michael Wood’s On Empson didn’t quite make the cut, nor any of Cynthia Ozick’s writing on Henry James, nor André Bernold’s delightfully odd memoir Beckett’s Friendship. It’s a very personal list; please let me know in the Comments section of any of your favourites.
How you tempt me… it shouldn’t be allowed!
Any of the books in particular? In case I might offer further inducement. (They are all exceptional).
Well, since I just thought of Gide this morning via Twitter, and am a big Dostoevsky fan… that would be top of my list.
Oh, that is essential for what Gide says of Dostoevsky, but also for what he says of Gide.
Edna O’Brien on Joyce
Is that biographical or critical? or both?
fantastic list, Anthony! will get started on these on 1January, 2019
Is it bad that I now want to read all of those…???
How could it possibly be? 😉
I am reading an outstanding example right now, Octavio Paz’s Sor Juana, or the Traps of Faith (1982). It might be more of a literary history than the books in your list – not sure – but it is full of wonders.
Ooh, thanks, that’s a new one to me.
An interesting list. I’ll have to extend my wish list now. Nice post.
Zwicky’s Auden as Philosopher. Unnecessarily difficult – read: expensive – to get as it was only ever published in Canada, but worth a read if a copy comes along.
Thanks, Markku. I’ll keep a look out, love both Zwicky and Auden.