Q: What is a poet's biography for?
A: It motivates the poet.
Q: No, I mean for readers. Why do they read poets' biographies?
A: To satisfy their prurient curiosity.
Q: But you read them.
A: I also eat Chili Cheese Fritos. I know they're not good for me, but I do it anyway.
Q: Dr Johnson said that the biographical part of literature was the part he loved most.
A: Then he burned his letters and his autobiographical account of his early life.
"Biographies of writers are always superfluous and usually in bad taste," said Auden, who read and reviewed them with gusto. It may surprise you to hear this, but people are complicated and not always consistent.
Q: So how do you feel about the prospect of your own biography?
A: I fear it to about the same degree as I fear hitting my head on the rim while dunking a basketball. I'm more worried about next month's utility bill. That's going to arrive, irrespective of my opinions.