All biographers act on the hunch that their subject’s lives are worth the effort, but the biographers who focus on obscure subjects act with the romantic faith of the idealistic entrepreneur. Being the first person to take on an unproven subject is both a risk and an investment; you are the entire cottage industry. If your hunch is correct, being there first can bring rewards—no one had written the story of Zelda Fitzgerald when Nancy Milford took it on as a young graduate student; now “Zelda” is a cornerstone of both Fitzgerald and feminist studies. Had Milford been in a position to purchase Zelda’s papers or art work early on she may have found herself in an even more enviable position.
The danger of investing in Dawn Powell, as Page has discovered, is that sheer will alone cannot spark a literary resurgence.”
This is insanely sad. Especially because of the above paragraph: would Zelda have been fascinating to anyone if she hadn’t been married to F. Scott? Dawn Powell didn’t exist in a vacuum, but she wasn’t married to a famous anything and I wonder if this is a big part of why she is still mostly neglected.
I “own” her diaries in the sense that I bought the book Tim Page edited of her collected diaries from 1935 to 1961. Flipping it open randomly, I find this: Desire makes its own object worthy of desire.