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The Biographer's Tale
by A.S. Byatt

Category: Fiction / General
305 pages; ISBN: 0375411143

Rating: 1/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


His postgraduate literary-criticism courses bore student Phineas G. Nanson, who wonders if that is all there is in life. Unable to take anymore, Phineas decides to commit university heresy and devote his time on biographies, feeling that will provide a taste of real life. He chooses the obscure works of Destry-Scholes who gave the world the consummate story of Victorian polymath Sir Elmer Bole, a nineteenth century English renaissance man.

Phineas' research into his hero leads to finding partial manuscripts on Linnaeus, Galton, and Ibsen. However, as the student-scholar digs deeper into his champion's works, he finds that Desrty-Scholes has created facts to spice up the lives of his subjects. Uncovering this information makes a disappointed Phineas realize the world of biography is closer to the literary realm than he realized, but with his stiff upper lip he seem happier for the knowledge.

THE BIOGRAPHER'S TALE is a series of satires that laughs at much of what modern society, especially the British, reveres from its heritage. The story line slowly evolves setting up the ironic humor. Publishers, authors, and reviewers (myself included) can see ourselves alongside insects and vermin in caricatures of fun house mirror images of ourselves.

Harriet Klausner


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