Ian Sansom

A Life in Letters

The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale


Corsair 388pp £30 order from our bookshop

For the biographer, writes James Atlas in this curious and intriguing memoir of a life spent accounting for other people’s lives, ‘everything matters’. The author of Bellow: A Biography and Delmore Schwartz: The Life of an American Poet, Atlas has expended countless hours getting his hands dirty in white cotton gloves, sifting through archives, boxes of letters and dull discarded notes and drafts, as well as tracking down and interviewing friends, family members and vague acquaintances of the literary great and good. ‘For every anecdote,’ he grumbles, ‘I had to listen to the story of someone’s life.’ The Shadow in the Garden is the story of a career spent listening to the stories of other people’s lives. All of that time and effort might matter to the biographer’s tale, but does the biographer’s tale matter to the reader?

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Jane Ridley writes on Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Journals of Kenneth Rose, edited by D R Thorpe ,
    • 'Lucian Freud was never short of confidence. In the 1990s he painted a small head of an especially rich individual… ,
    • Robin Simon's review of Lucian Freud, edited by Martin Gayford and David Dawson ,
    • 'Lenin regularly communicated with his agents in Russia by postcard and Stalin sent girlfriends cards depicting ero… ,
    • RT : Could any book publishing people share with me their route into publishing roles for a sixth former I am working wi… ,
    • Donald Rayfield reviews Greetings From the Barricades: Revolutionary Postcards in Imperial Russia by Tobie Maythew ,
    • 'Citadel of the Saxons manages to turn the slim pickings of the surviving evidence into something like a consistent… ,