The other day, a rather beautiful little book dropped onto my desk. Written Lives is a short collection of potted biographies of famous writers by the Spanish novelist and essayist Javier Marías. Ranging from Faulkner to Nabokov, Joyce to Rimbaud, each life story is no more than 10 or so pages, concentrating on a particular period or aspect of the subject’s life. Thus we find Oscar Wilde bloated and listless in his life after prison, and a posturing James Joyce comparing "the mystery of Mass" with his own work. Each piece mixes a little anecdote, some biographical fact and a brief explanation of the chosen writer’s greatness.More from Paul Hamlos on the Culutre Vulture blog.