Sunday 1 May 2016

Writers' mini-biographies

I mean, those little single-para biogs that usually appear on the very first page of a book, or on the back flap if it has flaps. They are introductions: reader, meet X, who lives in Gothenburg. There’s not room for much more info, but often they list an author’s previous titles (which are listed again on the second page, in case your memory is seriously short-term), and if relevant a prize or two (many of these with strange names: the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust award, the Ballygowrie Prize for Irrelevance). Plus, optionally, something on marital status, children, pets; previous jobs (fur trapper, peanut vendor); and a surprising number of writers still divide their time between one place and another.

CBe tends to be relaxed about these. ‘Patrick Mackie lives in Gloucestershire’ is all you get at the start of The Further Adventures Of The Lives Of The Saints (launch party at Daunts in Holland Park this Tuesday, 3 May, 6.30: if you’re curious to know more, come along). There are no author photos on any of the books. Two of the books carry no biographical information at all. In the case of Andrew Elliott, when someone requested life info and a photo I simply sent a photocopy of his poem ‘Self-portrait in Shades #2’ (from Mortality Rate). It has been rumoured that I am Andrew Elliott. I am not. On the other hand, I am Jack Robinson and Jennie Walker (‘has published, under a different name, several collections of poetry’).

I don’t think a lack of information need be confusing. I don’t think it really matters. I’m aware that many people do sometimes want some cut-and-dried hard facts about the author of the book they are reading. In the interests of clarity, here’s a screenshot of a website’s reply to a request for information about the CBe (and now HappenStance and Cape) writer J. O. Morgan:

PS: a fine review of Julian Stannard’s What were you thinking? is published in the Herald today, this bright May morning:

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