“Ghostwriter: if you could have any author – living or dead – write your biography, who would you choose?”
That’s a good question, and while there could only ever really be one winner, I did spend some time thinking about the options, even though they were all discarded in pretty short order, for one reason or another:
Oscar Wilde: On the plus side, it would be flamboyant, and awash with clever wordplay and witty aphorisms. But then it would be a bit too much like this blog. Ahem…
Moving on quickly…
Anthony Trollope: Lots of beautifully constructed sentences in the Victorian idiom, which personally I very much like, but I can’t imagine it would sell well these days. Plus, even the great man would struggle to get a three part saga out of me.
Marcel Proust: Sort of Trollope, but in French. And even longer. Good at teasing plenty of copy out of not very much action but, again, perhaps rather daunting for modern tastes (Point of information: I have actually read Proust. All of it. On a bus. It’s very, very good).
Honoré de Balzac: French again, you see, so even though one would like to show willing by selecting a literary giant of one’s adopted country, this would be too much of a stretch. I did once start to read one of his books but didn’t get very far. I discovered that I had been mispronouncing his name. I though it was ‘Bal’ (as in ‘bat’) and ‘Zak’, but after about fifteen pages I realised it was ‘Balz’ (as in ‘balls’) and ‘ac’ (as in ‘ache’).
Ernest Hemingway: It would be concise. It would be made up of simple, clear sentences. It would extol my manly virtues. So it would be very short.
Jeffrey Archer: No. Just no. Although then again, he has demonstrated a useful talent for bigging up biographical details…
But the winner is…
William Shakespeare: The author of arguably the greatest play in the English language has got the CV as far as I’m concerned. Especially as it’s about a miserable bloke, usually dressed all in black, who can’t make up his mind. No contest really.
Disclaimer: You often see, when the credits start to roll on a movie, or an episode of ‘Law and Order’, some statement to the effect that ‘any similarity with any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental’ (yeah, right). Being an honest man, I would feel compelled to put out a similar disclaimer, as I am neither tragic, nor a hero.
But the good news is that, if I can have Shakespeare to write my biography, there’s surely no reason why T S Eliot shouldn’t provide my get-out clause. Especially as he’s already done it:
“No! I am not Prince Hamlet nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous –
Almost, at times, the Fool.
– T S Eliot: ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’
On second thoughts, maybe I’ll just wait for the
film straight to DVD to come out…