Posts Tagged: Biographies

How to Write John Updike's Deathbed

A couple of weeks ago, Adam Begley was in town to publicize his biography of John Updike, which is, as Louis Menand put it, “an extended essay in biographical criticism, an insight into the man through the work and the work through the man.”

I’d intended to talk to Begley, who I’ve known for years, about a scene towards the book’s end. Updike is dying at home, surrounded by his wife, Martha, and ex-wife, Mary. It’s a vividly rendered paragraph and I wondered: Had Begley been present?

He was still at home when Mary telephoned Martha and said she’d like to come see her ex-husband. Martha suggested that [...]


Biography Terrible

"Wilson purveys many hoary myths long since discredited by historical research…. Repeatedly, he introduces material that is marginal or irrelevant…. Some of his judgements are simply bizarre…. Wilson concludes with a series of reflections that are breathtaking in their banality." —A.N. Wilson's Hitler: A Short Biography, reviewed by Richard J. Evans. (via, via)


The Biographies of Thomas Jefferson, International Man of Mystery

Sarah Marshall and Amelia Laing are reading their way through biographies of all the American presidents, in order. This time up, it's Thomas Jefferson. Have you heard of this fellow Thomas Jefferson? He was our third President! From 1801 to 1809! And he was the father of somewhere between five and eleven children!

Amelia: Sarah Marshall left Denver this morning #lifeisterrible. We had a grand old time, though, Sarah and I. We made literally (and I do mean literally) the best bloody mary mix ever (the secret is red hot chili flakes, real grated horseradish, and three times the amount of recommended hot sauce). We were both finishing our respective [...]


True Stories About Ann Dunham

Here is a small bit of Janny Scott's biography of Barack Obama's mother, detailing in particular the years they lived in Indonesia with her second husband. Born in 1942, having her first child in 1961, and moving to Jakarta in 1967—which set the stage for her to become an early expert in the more recently trendy world of global microfinancing—it reveals yet again that the women of this generation lived incredible lives in an incredible time, a fact that's often covered-up by (at least) the passage of decades. To me, the story most notably shows the value of following your interests and passions—moving from anthropology to teaching English [...]


Huzzah, George Washington, Secret Basketcase And First President

Many years ago, Sarah Marshall and Amelia Laing went to high school together. They laughed, they cried, they wore regrettable outfits to underage dance clubs. They traded books, sweaters, and anxieties, and somewhere along the way they took AP US History together, and learned, all told, surprisingly little. Now, as they make their way through a different but equally ridiculous phase of their lives, they have set out to remedy this oversight by reading biographies of all the presidents, in order. It's going to get hairy around Harrison.

This time up, as an accompaniment to Presidents Day weekend, it's George Washington, and the books discussed are David McCullough's 1776 and [...]


Terrible News: Sarah Palin 4 Kidz Biography On Hold

The "young readers" Christian biography of Sarah Palin has been shelved. Too bad, because it sounds great! "Vanity Fair, which published a critical post-mortem on the McCain campaign, is called a 'widely read gossip magazine.'" Well, half-right.