BIOGRAPHY AS HIGH ADVENTURE: Life-Writers Speak on Their Art by Stephen B.--Ed. Oates

BIOGRAPHY AS HIGH ADVENTURE: Life-Writers Speak on Their Art

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The art of biography discussed by 10 acclaimed biographers. All the writers included here represent a school known as ""pure biography,"" which presents the subject's life as a narrative adventure, a ""novel of facts"" rather than as a critical commentary or a psychoanalytical investigation. AndrÉ Maurois presents some basic roles: choose a well-known person to write about, go in chronological order, choose the essential details, practice detachment towards your subject. Leon Edel calls for shorter biographies that uncover the subject's ""hidden personal myth."" Frank E. Vandiver sees biography as an ""agent of humanism,"" embedded in the author's empathy for his subject. According to Mark Schorer, the biographer must be a drudge, a critic, and an artist. Barbara Tuchman, in an especially feisty essay, sees biography as a doorway to history, and provides a list of great biographies in the English language. Other contributions by Catherine Bowen, Justin Kaplan, Paul Murray Kendall, Paul Mariani, and the editor confirm the suspicion that biographers brandish all the literary skills of novelists and investigative journalists, and that they long for more critical recognition. Valuable for anyone planning to write a biography. Otherwise, of interest only to academics--and repentant critics.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of Massachusetts Press