Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, June 1, 2012

Feminist (Non) Fiction Friday: The biography edition

One of the things I noticed while compiling my list of good and great biographies was that the names tht kept appearing on the list--David McCulloch (Truman, John Adams), Walter Isaacson (Steve Jobs, Einstein), Ben Macintyre (The Napoleon of Crime), Robert Massie (Peter the Great), Joseph Lash (Eleanor and Franklin) and A. Scott Berg (Lindbergh) were all men. There were men who specialized in stories about businessmen like Michael Lewis (Moneyball, Liar's Poker) and men specialized in scientific figures, like Mike Venezia (biographies of Albert Einstein, Jane Goodall and Thomas Edison, among others). George Vecsey seems to be a go-to guy for sports bios (Martina, Stan Musial, but also a bio of Loretta Lynn). There are a lot of men specializing in chronicling the lives of interesting people. Women? Not so much.  And I was looking...
Claire Tomalin
My list--which has almost two thousand books on it--only repeats two women writers; both of them specialists. They are Claire Tomalin and Alison Weir. Turns out they're pretty interesting people in their own right.
Tomalin has been dubbed the "queen of literary biography" whose works include biographies of Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Hardy, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Katherine Mansfield and last year, a biography of Charles Dickens that's considered definitive. (Here's a link to an interview Tomalin did on the eve of publishing Charles Dickens: A Life.)
Alison Weir
Alison Weir, who is two decades younger than Tomalin, has focused on English royalty, and is the best-selling female historical author in Great Britain (according to Wikipedia). One of the trials she's forced to bear is that she has the same name as a sensationalist journalist and apparently gets mistaken for her enough that she has this notice on her website: 
**THIS AUTHOR IS NOT THE AMERICAN ALISON WEIR, founder of the organisation If Americans Knew.**
Weir regularly hosts tours themed to the subjects of her books, as well as day trips to Hampton Court Palace and The Tower of London.  How much fun would it be to go on one of those tours?

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