"How can one make a life out of six cardboard boxes full of tailor's bills, love letters and old picture postcards?" asked the novelist Virginia Woolf, who once tried her hand at literary biography. "Yes," she concurred, "writing lives is the devil!" It is also the most widely read form of historical nonfiction. Here, Gale E. Christianson, author of the standard biographies of Isaac Newton, Loren Eiseley, and the founders of modern astronomy, writes eloquently of the subject he knows so well in thirteen essays. Ranging in tone from humorous to melancholy, they trace the complex and fascinating process of creating a biography, from the point of selecting a subject to the book's publication and review. Rather than offer a "how-to-guide," or "art of biography," Christianson delves anecdotally into what does not get into the finished biography. He makes the reader a partner to the creative struggle, to the gathering of the mounds of information, to the sifting and the winnowing, to the writing and the rewriting, to the small triumphs and the nagging doubts when commitment fails to imitate art, as seems inevitable - nothing more and nothing less than the personal reflections of a biographer at work.
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Published December 1, 1993
by Archon Books.
Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction.