“Why does the writing make us chase the writer? Why can’t we leave well enough alone? Why aren’t the books enough?” Julian Barnes poses these questions in Flaubert’s Parrot, his fictional biography of Gustave Flaubert. Perhaps, as readers, we enjoy the amateur detective work that literary biographies offer. We like to excavate the lives of famous authors and uncover the experiences that might have shaped their stories.
The problem is, writers’ lives don’t always make for great cinema. If writers are any good, it’s usually because they spend weeks alone, in a room, with a computer (or paper if they’re old-school).
Literary biopics usually cater to the fantasy that writers are drunk, mad, sex-obsessed geniuses inspired by the holy spirit (50% proof).