Secret Lives of Great Authors is the kind of book that you should read in the company of others. It’s filled with odd bits of trivia that you want to share with someone the instant you read them, and without sharing the trivia seems to fly right out of your head.
I was going to come here and write all kinds of witty little things about all the secrets that I learned while reading the book and it seems that I have forgotten a lot of them. The overall impression that I got from this book is that writers drink a lot and have a lot of sex. Here are a few of the other things I remember:
- When she was working as an editor, Toni Morrison used to send her own money to struggling writers she believed in
- Walt Whitman was a vocal proponent of masturbation, which means he and I have two things in common (we’re both Geminis too)
- Thoreau invented raisin bread
- Edgar Allan Poe went to school next to a cemetery and his creepy teachers would make them dig graves for gym class and practice math by figuring out how old the dead people buried under the gravestones were
- Though I have never read her work, after reading about Ayn Rand I don’t think I’d like her at all
Like Largehearted Boy, I didn’t learn too many new things from the book but found it amusing nonetheless. Instead of rehashing a lot of stuff that is common knowledge about Shakespeare, Wilde, Hemingway, Woolf, and Fitzgerald, I wish I could have learned about the secret lives of more modern great writers (Updike, Irving, Atwood, Carver, Roth). Maybe they’re all planned to be included in the sequel.