Here are links to some things I've been reading recently. First, three essays on literary biographies that can be usefully read against each other, and which cumulatively give a sense of the rewards and the pitfalls of the form:
Robert Alter on Nili Scharf Gold's biography of Yehuda Amichai ("Gold's study illustrates what a bad idea it is to reduce a great writer to one or two explanatory formulas"); Lewis Jones on two new biographies of Samuel Johnson, which have as their competition one of the earliest and greatest literary biographies ever written, Boswell's Life of Johnson ("Bernard Malamud maintained that all biography is fiction, which may well be true. It is certainly true that no two biographers agree completely, and every biography is stamped with the character of its author); and, most fulfilling of all, Alan Hollinghurst's review of Sheldon Novick's Henry James: The Mature Master (In the end -- by which I really mean soon after the beginning -- you are faced with a problem that can affect literary biography more sharply than other kinds: a writer is writing about a writer. One sensibility is at the mercy of another in a shared medium. No one would want a life of James written in Jamesian. But something sharp-eared, responsive, and self-aware should ideally show itself in the biographer's style and approach").
And here is an essay to do with Indian literature: "The Real Classical Languages Debate" by the scholar and translator Sheldon Pollock, whose lecture two days ago at the Jaipur Literary Festival on the beauty of Sanskrit literature and on the "Sanskrit cosmopolis" of a thousand years ago was among the most rousing talks I have ever heard. I can't wait to read Pollock's book The Language of the Gods: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India. Pollock is also the General Editor of the marvellous Clay Sanskrit Library series, about which I've written earlier here and here.
Lastly, some links to old essays on literary biographies: Patrick French's book on VS Naipaul, Alberto Manguel on Borges, Giovanni Boccaccio on Dante (this was my first-ever blog post, back when my hair was all black and my weight 65), and Javier Marias on Eliot, Rilke, Lampedusa, and many others.