"The Sound of Truth"

By Cornelia Stott

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Synopsis

Everybody knows what biographies are and many people still turn to them for truth about their subjects. But it is more obvious than ever that we can't completely trust records of the past, just as we can't always trust an eyewitness report to be true and objective. So life-stories, and particularly those with a neat narrative structure, are increasingly to be viewed with scepticism by the critical reader. Moreover, the "death of the author" has been postulated: does this mean there is no longer a place for writer biography at all? Clearly not, and recently new impulses for the development of the biographical genre have come from unexpected angles. The past's accessibility has been adopted by novelists as a topic in itself; they are experimenting and playing with a genre that might otherwise have appeared stale and old-fashioned. Thus they rejuvenate and inject new life into it - producing many entertaining books in the process. Cornelia Stott examines books by postmodern authors such as Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, William Boyd, Peter Ackroyd and A. S. Byatt, which lie on the boundary between biography and the novel, and offers interpretations of some influential works. Experiments with the past and its appropriation are still continuing, so this book will be of interest to anyone wanting to engage with contemporary developments in English literature.

Cornelia Stott