Mythbusting publishing : questioning the ‘runaway popularity’ of published biography and other life writing
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 authored by Susan CurrieSusan Currie, Donna BrienDonna Brien
“Biography—that is to say, our creative and non-fictional output devoted to recording and interpreting real lives—has enjoyed an extraordinary renaissance in recent years,” writes Nigel Hamilton. For over a decade now, commentators having been making similar observations about our obsession with the intimacies of individual people’s lives. At least in relation to television, this assertion seems valid. Offering further evidence of this interest are the growing readerships for personally oriented weblogs and networking sites, individual profiles and interviews in periodical publications, and the recently widely revived newspaper obituary column. Adult and community education organisations run short courses on researching and writing auto/biographical forms and, across Western countries, the family history/genealogy sections of many local, state, and national libraries have been upgraded to meet the increasing demand for these services. Academically, journals and e-mail discussion lists have been established on the topics of biography and autobiography, and North American, British, and Australian universities offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in life writing. In this context and utilising best seller lists from the last century, this article examines and questions the commonly aired proposition that published life writing in its many text-based forms (biography, autobiography, memoir, diaries, and collections of personal letters) is enjoying a similar, and unprecedented, popularity.