Most book reviewers know very little about the history or the art of biography. Indeed, if there is any art in biography, it is the rare reviewer that acknowledges it or knows how to discuss it. Usually the reviewer regards biography as an occasion to wax eloquent about what he or she thinks of the subject. Little space, if any, is devoted to the biography's structure or style, to the biographer's peculiar problems, or to how the biography relates to others about the same subject.
Carl Rollyson, a professional biographer and weekly columnist (On Biography) for The New York Sun, explores the ramifications of authorized and unauthorized biographies, investigates the relationship between biography and history, biography and fiction, biography and autobiography, as well commenting on certain perennial biographical subjects such as Napoleon, on sub genres such as children's biography, and on the most recent developments in life writing.
Rollyson's aim is to reach not merely scholars but that vast general audience addicted to reading biography, enhancing their pleasure by providing insight (or you might say, the inside word) on how biographies are put together.
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November 24, 2004
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