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'The standard-bearers of Western culture'

21 May 2007

'Biographies have become the standard-bearers of Western culture, the lives by which we measure our lives. Once regarded as a second-rate genre, the work of flatterers or muckrakers, biography is now more popular than at any time in history...

Our curiosity to know how others live - from the interior of Tony Blair's mind to the content of Boris Johnson's fridge - is more inquisitive than invasive. We read, watch, eavesdrop and gossip about other lives, not because they are necessarily important or laudable, but because they are individually interesting, each providing a small window on human identity. Biography is not about burglary, but self-knowledge: the desire to know others we can never meet, and so to know ourselves a little better.'

Ben Macintrye in The Times