Thursday, March 25, 2021

An odd biography …

 A theory of something by Anthony Daniels | The New Criterion. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

… the author has chosen to write his subject’s biography backwards, from maturity to infancy. Perhaps he took the idea from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”(Fitzgerald in turn may have had it from Eden Philpotts’s novel A Deal with the Devil), or perhaps he wanted to shake the complacency of those of us who still think we live in a Newtonian universe and for whom time remains an absolute measure, an inexorable, unidirectional forward march of events. Be that as it may, as a biographical device I found it distracting rather than illuminating. It makes for a jerky rather than a smooth narrative, placing an unnecessary strain on the reader’s mind, for each chapter oscillates backwards and forwards so that one is often not quite sure of the temporal relation of what is being discussed to what one has already read and to what is to come. A more conventional approach, beginning with birth and ending with death, would have been better; sometimes convention is superior to originality or eccentricity.

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