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Kiss and Tell af Alain De Botton

Kiss and Tell (original 1995; udgave 1996)

af Alain De Botton (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
373352,110 (3.31)9
Forfatteren sætter sig for at skrive en biografi om en ukendt og helt almindelig kvinde, men opdager efterhånden, at hendes tilsyneladende ordinære tilværelse i virkeligheden er særdeles bemærkelsesværdig.
Titel:Kiss and Tell
Forfattere:Alain De Botton (Forfatter)
Info:Picador (1996), 288 pages

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Kiss & Tell af Alain de Botton (1995)


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[Kiss and Tell] was listed here at LT as 'essays" and that I had read it and given it ****, however it is not essays and I am about 95% sure I never have read it. de Botton likes to find his own angle on a topic of interest to him and I think he especially likes the liminal in-between states or identifying the oddities of behaviours we take for granted, in this case the exercise of biography writing. An (ex)girlfriend has accused the narrator of being self-absorbed and insensitive to others. He decides that the next woman he meets he will learn everything he can about her. And so his involvement with Isabel Rogers begins and so does the fun. It is an extremely clever book and funny but without sacrificing warmth and a more than a few insights of the profounder sort, although delivered somewhat offhandedly: "The process of intimacy therefore involved the opposite of seduction, for it meant revealing what risked rendering one most open to unfavourable judgement, or least worthy of love." or "Ironically, we gain the security to discover faults in others as a consequence of the very strength these faulty characters have been generous enough to grant us." Or, "What we recall of our childhood is not the significant portion, but memories designed to shield us from difficult truths." Pow! Good stuff! Our narrator, of course, falls in love with the ordinary Isabel who proves, for him, the more he gets to know her to be unknowable. Along the way lots of digressions about the history and nature and evolution of biography: do you include everything? How does one select? Why we are so fascinated by the ordinary doings of extraordinary people when we couldn't care less what our neighbor likes to eat? Very enjoyable. **** ( )
1 stem sibylline | Nov 20, 2017 |
The hero/narrator, dismissed by his latest girlfriend as totally self-absorbed, determines to prove his possession of the quality of empathy by writing a biography, seeing the biographer’s mission as ‘understanding a human being as fully as one person could hope to understand another, submerging myself in a life other than my own’. For his subject he will select someone quite ordinary, to demonstrate ‘the extraordinariness of any life’. So Kiss and tell details the life of the fictitious Isabel Rogers, ‘the next person to walk into [his] life’, presented in proper biographical format. The 12 chapters begin with ‘The early years’, ‘The early dates’, ‘Family trees’; the volume comes complete with preface and index, and two sections of photographs of Isabel, her family and friends, all appearing entirely authentic.
This hybrid novel/biography/ biographical critique comprises three strands. It is at once the (pseudo-)biography of Isabel; an account of the narrator’s developing relationship with her; and much consideration of the nature of biography itself. The tenor of this can well be assessed by quoting the subheadings under BIOGRAPHY in the index:

of dead
details given in
discrepancies between author and subject
eating habits in
family research
impulse to write
lack of understanding of subject
men writing about women
private life in
psychology in
relationship between author and subject

There is reflection on the nature of family trees, adapted for this fiction, which is illustrated by a family tree conventional in layout but "tracing the passage of emotional dispositions" with annotations such as:

Christina — depressive, repressive, hysteric =
Henry Howard— alcoholic, promiscuous, authoritarian
Isabel—‘We can go into it another day. Are you sure I can’t get you anything to eat?’
Lucy—sandwich problem, masochist, intellectual insecurity
Paul — aggressive, worshipped too much by mother, neglected by father/sisters

The index — 12 pages, to the text’s 246 — is a properly detailed and structured biographical index. It fills out proper names merely mentioned in the text, and large general topics are duly specified as to aspect:

hands, taking notice of
finding way round
views of living in
men, differences between women and
continuing friendship after
embarrassment of
first experience
liberal attitude to
manual of
substitutes for
as symbol of intimacy
tastes in

with full breakdown for major characters. Isabel’s own entry fills four-and-a-half columns; that of her mother, one-and-a-half.
As an index to a hybrid fiction/biography, this must be reckoned a most interesting example of the craft. ( )
  KayCliff | Jan 4, 2016 |
Reflective account of the practice and philosophy of Life Writing and of the particular being the key to interesting accounts of the day to day life of individuals. Not sure why this is not seen in the same way as his later works. ( )
  ablueidol | Apr 25, 2009 |
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It is perhaps as difficult
to write a good life as to live one.
Lytton Strachey
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Whatever one's experience of the globe and its inhabitants, however impartial one's judgement and varied one's acquaintance, it would be no surprise if the most enchanting person one had yet encountered, someone whose taste in love and literature, religion and recreation, dirty jokes and household hygiene all lay beyond reproach, whose setbacks were capable of eliciting inexhaustible concern and pity, whose dawn halitosis was the grounds for no quiet shudder and whose view of humanity seemed neither cruel nor naive - one might without presumption suggest this person to be none other than oneself.
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One may suggest a connection between attachment and the biographical impulse ... a true biography demands a more or less conscious emotional relationship between author and subject.
The traditional family tree, emerging as it did from the feudal age, was primarily devoted to stressing lineage and dates of birth and death. But in a more psychological age, was the primary responsibility still to record such factual details? Listening to Isabel’s description of her family, I wondered if one might not inaugurate a different structure, one which traced not what lands, titles and estates moved down the generations, but rather the passage of emotional dispositions, in short, a [Larkinesque] tree of family fucked-upness?
A new form of biography, far less accurate than that of the old, but concurrently far more authentic. This genre would leave out of a person's life everything which hey did not remember of it, it would reflect how *they* understood their family tree rather than the totality of dates and facts which might objectively have been attached to it.
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Forfatteren sætter sig for at skrive en biografi om en ukendt og helt almindelig kvinde, men opdager efterhånden, at hendes tilsyneladende ordinære tilværelse i virkeligheden er særdeles bemærkelsesværdig.

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