Monday, October 02, 2006

Hold on - a biography's coming through

I woke today and found myself singing, a quick burst of ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning.’ Then I realized why. It was a Monday and time to get back to the job of the J.S.Haldane biography. On Friday we concluded a major self-experiment – the ‘we’ being he and I together, bringing an old laboratory adventure to life. Through the weekend we’ve been waiting for the next episode, his marriage. So I was singing my way into the job.
I woke the other night from an extended dream in which Haldane was appearing on a black and white TV, old yet still boyish, staring out from the screen and into my eyes for a long period.
Who knows what the psychic merging is when you tie your own life in with someone else’s so exclusively? I am coming to realize that Haldane lived his life, just as I generally tell my own stories, yet in this biography we have a compromise. Through my researches over the past two years one particular story has emerged, clinging on through scraps of correspondence, as bylines in other people’s letters, as snapshots and occasional diary entries, as official records and family anecdote. Find these, assemble them, scurry away in research to fill any glaring gaps, and ‘A Life’ takes form. This story has been through its own process of selecting and editing itself over the last 150 years. These are the remnants from which the life can be built. It plays through my imagination, has me dreaming and singing, as a Haldane is conjured back to some living form to meet the 21st century. Then I guess he forms new versions of himself in the experience and lives of his readers.

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