Joanna Biggs

Joanna Biggs is an editor at Harper’s. A Life of One’s Own was published last year.

In the summer of​ 1975, the Nigerian-born British novelist Buchi Emecheta went missing for a day. She tucked £10 into her purse and went to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard, then went to look at the glossy black door of 10 Downing Street for the first time. For lunch, she ate what she fancied – salad, cheesecake and not one, not two, but three glasses of bitter...

Theproblem with biography is that it’s impossible. Have you ever tried to write down the thoughts, the emotions, the memories that bubble up in a person over sixty seconds; where she is; what she’s wearing; what she can smell, taste and hear; who she’s with; what she’s saying; not to mention what contribution this 0.069 per cent of a day is making to the meaning of...

Atthe end of the Catacombs, having walked among the bones of six million Parisians, you come to a single gravestone. Somewhere in the ossuary are the remains of Racine, Charlotte Corday, Robespierre and Montesquieu, yet the only monument is to Françoise Gillain, who, you discover, died in 1821 after spending years trying to free a writer unjustly held in the Bastille. Arriving at...

Pure, Fucking Profit: ‘Assembly’

Joanna Biggs, 15 July 2021

It’sa while since I saw Cléo de 5 à 7, but I remember that it opens with a tarot spread. The tarot reader draws cards in groups of three, for past, present and future. The young woman with her, Cléo Victoire, her blonde hair elaborately curled back onto her head like a Parisian Dusty Springfield, bites her fingers, covers her face, and after confessing that...

From The Blog
31 March 2021

‘If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author,’ William Godwin wrote in 1798 of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, ‘this appears to me to be the book.’ Mary’s aim was off: she was trying to get back an errant lover but ended up ensorcelling Godwin instead. Falling in love with someone through their writing is slow and delicious and sad, like sighing gently over the years at a screen actor, like, say, the guy whose cheekbones and tousle stare out at me from a postcard on my fridge door, and who now stares out from the back cover of A Bright Ray of Darkness, his new novel – Ethan Hawke. 

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