Reviews of John Aubrey: My Own Life by Ruth Scurr

Ruth Scurr

The TLS has released its Books of the Year list for 2015, which includes Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey: My own life (Chatto). Here is William Boyd’s note on the book:

Fiction has always happily pillaged and cannibalized all the various formats of non-fiction for its own ends. Any expropriation in the opposite direction is less obvious and more subtle, though, as Donald Rayfield sagely remarked in his introduction to his magisterial biography of Chekhov, all biography is, in essence, “fiction, but fiction that has to fit the documented facts”. This year saw one of the most audacious biographies I can remember reading: Ruth Scurr’s John Aubrey: My own life(Chatto). It is in fact biography skilfully reimagined as an “autobiography” in the form of a notional diary made up almost entirely of Aubrey’s own words. What we are presented with is a wonderful artificial composite; a fascinating patchwork made up of extracts from Aubrey’s notebooks, journals and letters, chronologically rearranged with consummate editorial and novelistic artfulness by Scurr. The result is haunting, memorable and, in the field of non-fiction, unprecedented.

Full TLS Books of the Year 2015 article: www.thetls.co.uk/tls/public/article1637188.ece

Also read Stuart Kelly’s in-depth review for the TLS, in which Kelly also discusses the art of biography and possible forms for biography in the digital age.

“Scurr emphasizes the fuzziness and partial nature of all biography, which emphasizes the ambiguity and unfinishedness of all life. Our actual lives are singular to ourselves; our afterlives are necessarily plural.” (Kelly, TLS)

Full article on the TLS website:
www.the-tls.co.uk/tls/public/article1637188.ece

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