Literary biographies

Good biographers make the best companions

Strange, when your own life flatlines, the way in which other lives become suddenly more interesting. I have been retreating into biographies and memoirs as never before, scouring them for accounts of incarceration, illness, boredom, family meltdowns and sudden financial freefalls. One of the pleasures of the genre is the way in which the peaks and troughs of a lifetime are resolved by the author into a pattern as ordered as a heart rate on a hospital monitor: this year was a low point and this one a high point; this experience proved to be a turning point, while this one was no more than a blip in the chart.