In Bernard malamud’s Dubin’s Lives, William Dubin, an award-winning biographer of Henry David Thoreau, is engaged in writing a biography of D. H. Lawrence. Reflecting on his experience with biography in general and with Lawrence in particular, Dubin observes:

No one, certainly no biographer, has the final word. Knowing, as they say, is itself a mystery that weaves itself as one unweaves it. And though the evidence pertains to Lawrence, the miner’s son, how can it escape the taint, subjectivity, the existence of Willie Dubin, Charlie-the-waiter’s son, via the contaminated language he chooses to put down as he eases his boy ever so gently into an imagined life? My life joining his with reservations. But the joining—the marriage?—has to be, or you can’t stay on the vicarious track of his past, or whatever “truth” you think you’re tracking. The past exudes legend: one can’t make pure clay of time’s mud. There is no life that can be recaptured wholly; as it was. Which is to say that all biography is ultimately fiction. What does that tell you about the nature of life, and does one really want to know? 1