This collection of reviews, selected from Rollyson's New York Sun column, is as much about the romance of biography as it is about the American lives. Certain concerns resonate throughout the book:
Too many biographers, he believes, evince no interest in the biographical tradition. Concerned only with possession of their subjects, their proprietorial attitude deforms not only their biographies but also the genre itself. If a biography is reviewed badly (receiving hardly more than a summary of the subject's life with a perfunctory nod to the biographer), it is because the biographical tradition has been disregarded or discounted. This book, in other words, has been created on the behalf of biography, a genre that still awaits a full vindication.
This book is about what makes a good biography. I’ve read many biographies, so thought I should read what makes up a good biography according to the experts. Rollyson covered information I had not thought about since I was a student. Rollyson is a professor of journalism and the author of many biographies.
What makes this book so interesting is that Rollyson uses various biographies to demonstrate his points. He not only discusses various biographers on the same topic, he also points out the good and bad biographies and explains why. The author covers all the various types of biographies listed, he covers the political, founding fathers, literature and art, movie and television, as well as business and science leaders. Rollyson discuss the problematic nature of the authorized and unauthorized biographies. He covers the history of the American biography. Rollyson goes over the differences between definitive biographies, literary biographies, comparative biographies and the difference between history and biography. The author also discusses the autobiography and the historical novel.
In the discussion about researching information Rollyson emphasizes the importance of the interviews in biographies of contemporary figures. He also reviews the use of archives, newspapers, diaries etc.
This is a good book to read if the reader wants to know about reading and writing a biography and the best method to present the person’s story. Keith Peters narrates the book. This is my first introduction to both the author and the narrator.
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