Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Getting to Mordecai

I'm finding that size does matter!
For a long while now I have been itching to get to this new biography of author Mordecai Richler. It's by Charles Foran. It's a big brick of a beauty!
Thing is -- I said to myself, "First I will read more of Mordecai's work!"
I really like what I have read of Richler [The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and St. Urbain's Horseman] but oh my Yahweh! There's so far to go!
Right now I am past halfway in Solomon Gursky Was Here… and realizing that Richler isn't exactly something you zip through as if you were reading Ken Follett or Stephen King or what-have-you.
It's fairly deep -- convoluted, even. Interesting, but a bit daunting.
I have a long journey ahead of me if I think I am going to read all of his work and THEN read this biography! I can think of at least seven or eight major Mordecai novels, besides the ones I have read.
So, my question to my readers is this
--> Is it OK to read a biography of an author when you have not really read all of his/her stuff yet?
Have you read worthwhile biographies, having known only a small percentage of the featured author's output?
Or… or… should I be patient? Read the novels, no matter how long it takes [even as my eyesight is failing]… and then turn to this lovely bio?



Isabella said...

Excellent question! The answer is: Yes, it's OK to read a bio before reading an author's entire output. I read all of No One Here Gets Out Alive without having read a stitch of Jim Morrison's non-lyric poetry. And I read a bunch of Rilke's letters having read only a small fraction of his poetry (I know letters aren't exactly the same, but...). And I've read stuff about Shakespeare and I'm nowhere near halfway through his stuff.

But tread carefully. I'm not sure where to draw the line between an encyclopedia entry and a whole book devoted to the subject. And there are some things you may rather not know about some authors. So just know when to stop.

Stefanie said...

Oh yes, as Isabella says, it is OK to read a bio before reading all of the author's work. I've read an huge bio on Edith Wharton and a huge bio on Virginia Woolf and enjoyed both very much without having come close to reading everything either woman has ever written. The bios served to make me want to read more of their work and made the work more interesting because I could put it in the context of the writer's life. So read the bio Cip!

Cipriano said...

Thank you for this advice, Isabella and Stefanie. What you are suggesting makes a lot of sense -- especially when Isabella mentions Shakespeare. I have read tons of real interesting and relevant biographical stuff about Shakespeare and yet have read only a small percentage of his work. And Stefanie's comment about Woolf and Wharton -- reminds me of how I have recently thoroughly enjoyed a biography of Flannery O'Connor even though I haven't read all of her novels.
Even so, I think in the case of Richler I may yet want to read one or two more of his, and then devour this bio.
Thanks for your comments.