Ion Trewin on biographies, access and authorisation

Just a quick note really but Ion Trewin (whose work I haven’t read yet – though it sounds like I should) has an interesting piece in the notion of “authorised” and “non-authorised” biographies in the Independent. I’ve occasionally wondered about the differences and how the author negotiates between reputation and access to material.

I suppose it comes down to whether the estate or surviving partner is going to allow a “warts and all” access or whether it is desired. Trewin does get to the heart of the matter and that is access to material. Whilst unauthorised pieces can be fun and rip-roaring, the lack of new material can be frustrating especially if the work is a paste job from papers and the Internet with some re-writing (and especially if the sources are not referenced). It does not that authorised lives are necessarily more accurate since there is the access relationship which would, I suspect, make some demands on the writers.

One to ruminate on.

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