Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American

Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American

Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography [Reading] ➿ Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography By William Zinsser – Larringtonlifecoaching.co.uk Here, six eminent biographers explain the pleasures and problems of their craft of reconstructing other people s lives The result is a book rich in anecdote and in surprising new information about a v Here, six eminent biographers The Art Epub Ù explain the pleasures and problems of their craft of reconstructing other people s lives The result is a book rich in anecdote and in surprising new information about a variety of famous AmericansDavid McCullough takes us along on the exhilarating journey to Missouri to find The Unexpected Harry Truman Richard B Sewall describes his twenty year search for the elusive poet, Emily DickinsonPaul C Nagel tells us about The Adams Women four generations of women he came to admire while Extraordinary Lives: PDF/EPUB or writing his earlier biography of the Adams familyRonald Steel, author of a much honored biography of the nation s greatest journalist, recalls in Living with Walter Lippman, how the life of the biographer can become entwined with that of his subjectJean Strouse, on the trail of J P Morgan, discusses the fact that there are two reasons why a man does anything, a good reason and a real reason Robert A Caro reveals the frustrations of trying to unearth the true facts about Lyndon Johnson, Lives: The Art Epub Ú a man who went to great pains to conceal themTogether, these six biographers take us through a gallery of unique American lives most of them moving, many of them startling, and all of them extraordinary.


10 thoughts on “Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography

  1. Jonathan Brown Jonathan Brown says:

    How, exactly, do biographers do what they do This book records the lectures of six eminent biographers given in the winter of 1985 at the New York Public Library, wherein they discuss their fascination with their subjects, offer insights into their lives, and elucidate a bit of the process that goes into the production of biographical works.The opening essay, David McCullough talking about his research into Harry Truman, is probably a contender for the best piece in the book McCullough makes t How, exactly, do biographers do what they do This book records the lectures of six eminent biographers given in the winter of 1985 at the New York Public Library, wherein they discuss their fascination with their subjects, offer insights into their lives, and elucidate a bit of the process that goes into the production of biographical works.The opening essay, David McCullough talking about his research into Harry Truman, is probably a contender for the best piece in the book McCullough makes the observation thatHarry Truman lived seventy years of his life in Jackson County, Missouri So it stands to reason that if you want to understand Harry Truman, you d better know a good deal about Jackson County, Missouri, and you d better know a good deal about the people there who mattered to him, but just when he was growing up, but during his whole life28 A biographer or historian, McCullough says, mustknow what you write about, to get beneath the surface You have to know enough to know what to leave out And you have to know a great deal that you can t get from books especially from other people s books on the same subject, or even from printed records, such as letters, diaries, and contemporary newspaper accounts You have to know the territory You have to go to the place29 And so it was that McCullough made considerable visits to Jackson CountyIn my work I talk to people who talked to people who came up the Missouri River in the 1840s to Jackson County, Missouri, when Jackson County, Missouri, was the frontier38 McCullough visited the physical sites that marked Truman s life there, like the church where he met his future wife, the courthouse where he became a county judge, the railroad station that sent him off to war and saw his returnTo know your subject it helps to know his neighbors And sometimes they tell you things that are true, and sometimes they tell you things that aren t Sometimes one remark in an interview can change everything39.Beyond immersion in the physical and cultural environment, McCullough suggests, a biographer should beginby reading what other people have written And you try to get through all that as soon as you can My process is to make a detailed chronology of the whole life, almost a working diary of what he was doing year by year even day by day if it s an important periodThe biographer must thenmove quickly into what are known as the primary sources original letters, diaries, and documents that date from the time35 And McCullough at the time used an organizational filing system, creating files on every subject the book might cover, as well asa biographical file on every character of any consequence who will appear in the book hundreds of people eventually It s as if you re building a detective case55 McCullough also advises thata biographer must genuinely care about his subject, because as biographer you re living with that person every single day It s as if you were choosing a spouse or a roommate33 34.Similarly helpful was the last chapter, by acclaimed biographer Robert Caro, mainly discussing his research into Lyndon B Johnson and all of his complexities Caro s key piece of advice turns out to essentially boil down to McCullough, but MORE For Caro, too, stresses the importance of the real physical and cultural environment, but Caro went much further Years into his research, after repeated visits to the Hill Country of Texas, he realized that the culture there was so different from what he was accustomed to that, in order to effectively get the sense of it, he d have to move there So he and his wife Inamoved to a house on the edge of the Hill Country, and for parts of three years I lived there with Ina, driving to lonely ranches and farms to interview the people who grew up and went to college with Lyndon Johnson and helped make up his first political machine203 It was only once Caro had been there over a month, when the locals could see hewasn t just onereported coming through for a month and then going back to write the definitive work on what the Hill Country was likethatthey started talkingfrankly219.Nor, without this measure, could Caro ever have appreciated what Johnson meant to them Over and over again, his interviewees repeatedHe brought the lightsreferring to how Johnson, as a congressman, managed to bring the electric grid to the Hill Country, which changed everything Caro had the old women and old men of the community actually show him how they did their daily tasks in the pre electrical era he spent time hauling water buckets up from wells and scrubbing clothes on a washboard and ironing over a wood stove, and seeing the physical impact it had on the shoulders of those who grew up doing the same 204 209.The other four biographers have a bit less to offer to an aspiring colleague, nor do they have quite the same level of acclaim Richard Sewall, a biographer of Emily Dickinson, spenttime describing howin the beginning I didn t go searching for Emily Dickinson she went searching for me65 In 1945, when Millicent Todd Bingham edited a new collection of 660 hitherto unpublished Dickinson poems, Sewall was offered the chance to review itWhat I didn t know was that Mrs Bingham had been searching for someone to write a biography of Emily Dickinson,and so began the allurement and the revelation that Millicent s mother, the original editor of Emily s poetry, had had an affair with Emily s brother Austin 66 68.Paul C Nagel, a group biographer of the women in the Adams family, saysabout his subjects than about his work, but adds thatdoing biography is as much an artistic calling as struggling with ideas In a good biography, readers must be coaxed to see many features for themselves points that perhaps the writer doesn t care to emphasize One of the great joys of biography is that if it succeeds, the author and the reader have each contributed to understanding some of the universals that are implicit in every life The struggle between good and evil, for instance, is at the heart of the biographical drama, but it is necessarily so delicate and touching that many readers are chilled by the social scientific treatment of it Biography in its great moments, long ago and now, has never ignored the mind and motive of the subject104 Ronald Steel, biographer of political commentator Walter Lippmann, putfocus on the ways in whicha biographer and his subject are both partners and antagonists at least when the subject of the biography is very much alive and exceedingly interested in the results123 Steel discusses the various forms of collaboration and conflict that the pair had during the five years of their working relationship, and the difficulty of tracking down living relatives that Lippmann denied the existence of, and even eventually making contact with Lippmann s ex wife.Finally, Jean Strouse, biographer of Alice James sister to William James and Henry James and of J Pierpont Morgan, meanders muchconsiderably in contrasting 19th and 20th century approaches to biography turns to the challenges of writing a biography of a person who spent much of her life confined to a sickbed and then of a very prominent public figureafter spending five interesting years thinking and writing about a powerless female invalid in a family of intellectuals, I wanted a complete change and ended up with the most powerful man of the late nineteenth century173 and meditates on discerning the real motives and reasons for a life s development as opposed to the stated motives and reasons All the James siblings reflected on their mother s many virtues, and yet Strouse observed thatall five of her children suffered most of their lives with crippling emotional troubles Depression, nervous breakdown, alcoholism, homosexuality, and various psychosomatic ailments were on the collective list Mary James seems to have been a cold, practical, supervisory mother, who had little sympathy for any sign of weakness and no patience with the frequent illnesses that plagued her children175 Consequently,the mothers in Henry James s novels are grasping, selfish, demanding, often terrifying creatures176 177 Strouse suggests that modern biographytells us not how to live, but how other people, in all their interesting, quirky, original variety, have lived Maybe, in fact, biography is uniquely equipped just now to look at the fragments and chaos of the past through methods of modern inquiry careful research into primary sources, fresh angles of approach, skepticism, special kinds of listening for new evidence and to shape out of those materials a narrative whole with a human life at its center185.Needless to say, the insights of McCullough and Caro are the most helpful on exactly how one might undertake that project But from these six taken together, the aspiring biographer or, I suppose, those merely curious about biographers can glean a fair number of helpful tips on how to conceptualize his her task and how to go about it, navigating its challenges and seizing upon its opportunities Interviews, reading, archival research, environmental immersion, reading between the lines, interpersonal skills, even some manual labor all crop up as tools in the biographer s arsenal A useful book, therefore I m glad to have read it


  2. Ivan Ivan says:

    Splendid talks adapted to the written word by William Zinsser by Robert Caro on LBJ and David McCullough on Truman , among others In the mid 80s, Caro was in the middle of his LBL trilogy which we now know will be five volumes and McCullough had yet to write his Adams biography I loved reading about Caro s move to the Hill Country in Texas, where for three years he lived among the people there, and it finally clicked for him why LBJ was so esteemed and why children were named after him Splendid talks adapted to the written word by William Zinsser by Robert Caro on LBJ and David McCullough on Truman , among others In the mid 80s, Caro was in the middle of his LBL trilogy which we now know will be five volumes and McCullough had yet to write his Adams biography I loved reading about Caro s move to the Hill Country in Texas, where for three years he lived among the people there, and it finally clicked for him why LBJ was so esteemed and why children were named after him He brought them electricity as a young congressman from the tenth district and he finally understood, as someone who took electricity for granted in NYC, why that mattered


  3. Lyn Elliott Lyn Elliott says:

    Six American biographers talk about their approaches to biography, why they chose their subjects, and what matters most to them as writers of biographies.Robert Caro, talking of the first volume of his biography of LYNDON Johnson s says I was never interested in writing biographies merely to tell the lives of famous men I never had the slightest interest in doing that From the first time I thought of becoming a biographer, I conceived of biography as a means of illuminating the times and the Six American biographers talk about their approaches to biography, why they chose their subjects, and what matters most to them as writers of biographies.Robert Caro, talking of the first volume of his biography of LYNDON Johnson s says I was never interested in writing biographies merely to tell the lives of famous men I never had the slightest interest in doing that From the first time I thought of becoming a biographer, I conceived of biography as a means of illuminating the times and the great forces that shape the times particularly political power A biography will only do that, of course, if the biography is of the right man He did indeed choose the right man for his purpose, revealing the dark side of Johnson as well as the good things he did, such as bringing electricity to the poor hill country of Texas.Jean Strouse, who wrote about Alice James, invalid sister of Henry and William, headed her lecture The Real Reasons She introduced her talk with comments on modern biography In trying to see some of the reasons why people do the things they do, modern biography operates at the intersections of public and private experience It examines the ways in which character affects and is affected by social circumstance And it asks how, in very specific contexts, particular people go through the processes of their lives As well as meditations on the nature and processes of biography, each writer talked briefly about their subjects.It s a fascinating little book, ideal for reading in snatches I read it in iBooks and wish I had a hard copy to refer to easily.Excerpt fromExtraordinary Lives The Art and Craft of American BiographyWilliam Zinsserhttps itunes.apple.com au book extrThis material may be protected by copyright


  4. John John says:

    This is a book for those who enjoy biographies and wish to learnabout the craft and the challenges, along with a look at the individuals who are their subjects.These are not essays, but speeches or lectures, as they say that these biographers gave in 1985 The two best are Richard Sewall s talk about Emily Dickinson and David McCullough s talk about Harry Truman Sewall s was particularly fascinating because he worked with someone whose parents were actual contemporaries of Emily Dickins This is a book for those who enjoy biographies and wish to learnabout the craft and the challenges, along with a look at the individuals who are their subjects.These are not essays, but speeches or lectures, as they say that these biographers gave in 1985 The two best are Richard Sewall s talk about Emily Dickinson and David McCullough s talk about Harry Truman Sewall s was particularly fascinating because he worked with someone whose parents were actual contemporaries of Emily Dickinson, so it is a time travel like essay that brings Dickinson to life perhaps as much as his biography did The current price drop to 1.99 for the Nook edition at Barnes Noble makes this a good buy as well as a good read


  5. Matt Matt says:

    This contains some really interesting insights into how a biography is created This book is the transcript from a series of 6 lectures that were held in the New York Public Library back in 1985, featuring 6 biographers describing either a past biography they wrote or the one they were currently working on at the time I enjoy reading biographies and feel that there are important lessons that can be learned from the life experiences of any person This gave me a particular interest in reading th This contains some really interesting insights into how a biography is created This book is the transcript from a series of 6 lectures that were held in the New York Public Library back in 1985, featuring 6 biographers describing either a past biography they wrote or the one they were currently working on at the time I enjoy reading biographies and feel that there are important lessons that can be learned from the life experiences of any person This gave me a particular interest in reading this series of lectures because I was curious about the way in which biographies are written Now I want to read all the biographies mentioned in this book A few selections of my favorite quotes Good biographers combine the arts of the novelist, the detective work of the historian and the insights of the psychologist the single most important element in biography the delineation of character I ve often thought that the best way to define a man s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensely active and alive At such moments there is a voice inside which speaks and says, This is the real me the severest requirement imposed on a biographer is humility Writing about another person s life is an awesome task, so one must proceed with a gentleness born from knowing that the subject and the author share the frailties of human mortality Look at what the author is not telling you I suppose the fact that a person will even write an autobiography is revealing I doubt that Abraham Lincoln would have ever written an autobiography There is always some self serving going on David McCullough, speaking of Independence, Missouri, where Harry Truman lived most of his life It was the real Eden of America everybody dreamed of When a friend who worked in the publishing industry visited Harry Truman after he had left the White House and found him sitting in a chair between two stacks of books Mr President, as a publisher, I m so pleased to see that you are buying all those books I suppose you read yourself to sleep at night He said, No, young man, I read myself awake


  6. Harley Harley says:

    If you love to read biographies, you need to read this book The book is a collection of six lectures delivered in the winter of 1985 by 6 people who either wrote or were writing a biography The biographers include David McCullough, Robert B Sewall, Paul C Nagel, Ronald Steel, Jean Strouse, and Robert Caro My favorite talks were by David McCullough on Harry S Truman and Robert Caro on Lyndon Johnson.Here are a few of my favorite quotes There are two reasons why a man does anything There s If you love to read biographies, you need to read this book The book is a collection of six lectures delivered in the winter of 1985 by 6 people who either wrote or were writing a biography The biographers include David McCullough, Robert B Sewall, Paul C Nagel, Ronald Steel, Jean Strouse, and Robert Caro My favorite talks were by David McCullough on Harry S Truman and Robert Caro on Lyndon Johnson.Here are a few of my favorite quotes There are two reasons why a man does anything There s a good reason and there s the real reason p 12 I believe very strongly that essence of writing is to know your subject DM p 27 It s muchimportant to listen when you re interviewing people than to worry about what questions you re going to ask DM p 45 I ve come to appreciate that doing biography is as much an artistic calling as struggling with ideas PN p 101 The best biographies have always told wonderful stories JS p 164 Good biographers combine the arts of the novelist, the detective work of the historian and the insights of the psychologist JS p 164 If you always tell the truth, you don t need memos to remember what you said Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives p 214I highly recommend this book to all who love biographies


  7. Madonna Madonna says:

    Biography writingInteresting if you want to get some ideas on how to approach writing a biography It was not what I expected whenI downloaded the book.


  8. Olivia Olivia says:

    Very intriguing facts stemming from those with an interesting boring profession biographer I never really thought of that profession as very interesting until reading this book Now I am intrigued by the profession.


  9. Joy H. Joy H. says:

    Added 1 3 17 first published 1986 I d love to find an audio version of this book 1 3 17 I posted the following at my Goodreads group today Today I came across something which said that a good question to ask people is What did your father do for a living I read that today while looking inside a book online The book is Extraordinary Lives The Art and Craft of American Biography If I remember correctly, it was in an email ad for book deals The link Added 1 3 17 first published 1986 I d love to find an audio version of this book 1 3 17 I posted the following at my Goodreads group today Today I came across something which said that a good question to ask people is What did your father do for a living I read that today while looking inside a book online The book is Extraordinary Lives The Art and Craft of American Biography If I remember correctly, it was in an email ad for book deals The link is you look inside the book, there s a lot of interesting reading with anecdotes about how the authors of biographies go about their business of collecting info.FROM MY GROUP AT Message 254 PS You can download a free Kindle sample of the book at the following link


  10. Henry Sturcke Henry Sturcke says:

    Another of the four volumes of the Craft of Writing series, this volume publishes six lectures given at the New York Public Library in the winter of 1985 As well as insights into the lives of those portrayed, the lectures offer a glimpse of how biographers work, both the habits such as visiting the locales where the subject lived and worked, combing archives, and interviewing people who knew the subject, as well as in the sense of the moral compass that guides a biographer in dealing with the l Another of the four volumes of the Craft of Writing series, this volume publishes six lectures given at the New York Public Library in the winter of 1985 As well as insights into the lives of those portrayed, the lectures offer a glimpse of how biographers work, both the habits such as visiting the locales where the subject lived and worked, combing archives, and interviewing people who knew the subject, as well as in the sense of the moral compass that guides a biographer in dealing with the life of another person Recommended


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *