The biographer on writing in bed, the enviable freedom of novelists and the bravery of Bloomsbury’s gay artists
For some 50 years or more I believed that a quick beginning of the next day’s work was essential. To make sure of this advantage I would write a paragraph the previous night and place it carefully next to my bed. When I got up next morning, there it was, still on the floor loyally waiting for me. Some special nights, when waking from a dream, I would see it as chance to make some subtle and necessary improvements to my original bedside text, turning drama into mysterious comedy. The reason was that I often woke from my dreams laughing – which was rather alarming for anyone near me.
Everything is slower now and my excuse is that I am less young – which is to say in my early 80s, so ...
From the story of a homeless ex-addict to the life of an anonymous diarist: meet the writer intent on refreshing a genre
The trouble with most 20th-century biographers was that they focused on well‑known people “pounding through facts from grandma to the grave”, wrote Alexander Masters
. They were, he added, “missing the point”. What then was the point? There were in fact two points: first that “any subject that is good for fiction is good for biography”, and second that modern biographers should not follow other people’s lives without revealing their own. In Stuart: A Life Backwards
, published in 2005, Masters set out to explore the life of a wholly unknown man he had met begging on a street in Cambridge. He was sitting on a square of cardboard, a wretched figure. “I had to get down on my knees to hear him speak.”
According to his mother, Stuart Shorter had been ...