biographies-900x675

Biographies That WON’T Make You Sick and Kill You

(underline ‘won’t’ because that makes it look like the other ones…)

Read It Forward

Look, I understand that in some fundamental way one’s interest in a biography cannot be completely divorced from one’s interest in the subject. So, unlike other forms of literary art, even biographies of wide acclaim don’t necessarily presume a large readership outside of the already converted. Despite knowing this, I’m just going to say it: for the most part, biographies are really boring—and here’s the kicker—even when the subject is of great importance to me. I’ve picked up lengthy tomes on some of my favorite writers, only to find myself drowning in the banal minutia of ancestors and hometown history and childhood development—and before long I’ll close the book in frustration, muttering something about how I couldn’t give a shit about what my heroes were like as kids, at least not in punishingly comprehensive detail. Get to the part, I think, where they accomplish the things that made me want to read a biography about them in the first place!

The reason I’m complaining at all is because I really love a good biography, and moreover, I really need them to do my work. So when I come across ones that hold my attention—or even rivet it, in some cases—I’m profoundly appreciative of its author for turning what might have been a grueling and tedious chore into a joyous and illuminating experience.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.36.52 AMRemarkable Books Written by Teenagers |
Read It Forward

Nearly every season, the literary world is introduced to some wunderkind writer who, at some stupidly young age like 21 or 22, has crafted a debut novel (usually) that is wise way beyond its fresh-faced author’s years. The attention placed on their books has as much to do with the novelty of precocity as it does with the merit of the work, if only because most of us, having lived through our early 20s without producing a masterpiece, know how difficult such a feat is to accomplish. Moreover, many readers enter into the highly extolled books of the preternaturally gifted with dubiousness, almost a suspicion of such quickly realized talent, so that upon publication the impassioned responses are drastically polarized between those much impressed by the early effort and those for whom it is nothing more than crass publicity on the part of the publisher and less the insights of some twenty-something genius.

Screen Shot 2015-09-10 at 10.30.23 AMIn Search of the Real Truman Capote | The Atlantic
Music for Chameleons is Capote’s most idiosyncratic book, his flat-out weirdest, but it’s also his most honest, and, in many ways, his best. It’s a shaky testament to a complex figure, and the battle with himself that he would never quite win. It captures Capote’s vast range, his uncanny ear for speech, his fascination with crime and process, his unprecedented access to celebrities and criminals alike—but most of all, Music for Chameleons captures his heart, hidden just below the pages. He wasn’t a saint, but he needn’t have been. Capote was a true artist—his blood was ink—and artists are more beautiful than saints, anyway.