Monday, September 18, 2006

The Burgess Project


(Auto)Biography

I don't very often read biography, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Andrew Biswell's book 'The Real Life of Anthony Burgess'. It's a highly readable - at times gripping - story. Fascinating also to read it alongside 'Little Wilson and Big God', the first part of the autobiography. I think what makes this so interesting is that Burgess was a master of re-invention - whatever the experience, he never seems to give the same account of it twice. The boundary between fact and fiction is of course never a clear one... but for Burgess it seems to have been exceptionally blurred.

On the other hand, there is something unusually open and frank about his writing in the autobiography. Deeply uncomfortable things -things other people might want to skate over, things which could show him (or others!) in a poor light - he exposes with a kind of fearlessness, or courage.

All this ambiguity gives us writers a lot to play with!

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