Tweet BBC News about a new Van Gogh biography that attempts to explode the legend that the troubled artist committed suicide. The primary research materials have been the thousands of letters left by Van Gogh and it got me thinking. So many biographies rely on correspondence either written to, by or about the figure in question, and letters usually provide the largest body of material due to their inherent "keepsake" nature. Call me a Luddite, but there's something irresistable about the letter. Emails don't make that satisfying "thwap" sound on the doormat. They don't have the same tangible feel, and they don't feature random doodles. The lack of handwriting makes them so impersonal.
It did make me wonder exactly what form future biographies will take. Will they quote casual tweets as an indicator of a person's mental wellbeing? Will access be granted to inboxes to allow researchers to comb through years of spam and Facebook notifications? Will blog posts become the favoured means of communication, replacing the personal correspondence of a beloved or notorious figure? As our private lives become increasingly public through the use of social media...will there even be a place for the biography?