In 1985, Richard Holmes published a book of four essays called 'Footsteps' and the writing of biography was changed forever. A magical mix of travel, biography and personal memoir, the book is one of the most intoxicating, hypnotic works of literary exploration ever published.
Similarly, 'Sidetracks' takes the form of a series of essays and subjects to look at the mysterious process of biography but goes far beyond it. It is an invitation for the reader to stray through an eclectic and glorious collection of Holmes' writing about an assortment of Romantic writers and thinkers. The book is organised around the seven main biographical voyages taken by Holmes in the last thirty years, which include a radio-play, a ballet treatment, a travelogue, several character sketches, a formal lecture and very informal short story.
All these stories deal with imaginative displacement and exploration, and the breaking of convention. To be sidetracked is, after all, to be led astray by a tune and maybe lost forever.