Biography as High Adventure: Life-Writers Speak on Their Art

By Stephen B. Oates | Go to book overview

Nine
Reaassembling the Dust

Paul Mariani

"I know of no critics in modern times," Leon Edel the biographer of Henry James, has reminded us, "who have chosen to deal with biography as one deals with poetry or the novel. The critics fall into the easy trap of writing pieces about the life that was lived, when their business is to discuss how the life was told." From scanning the reviews which greeted (in one form or another) my own biography of William Carlos Williams, I know the truth of Edel's statement. And I mention it because it is a curious phenomenon and, in an age which prides itself on the attention it has given to the critical act, a phenomenon which I find puzzling and hard to explain. It is as though, in the case of biography, the reader somehow believed that the life the biographer has assembled for us existed prior to the writing itself. I am only half playing when I say this, because it is axiomatic that the biographer must always be true to the facts -- the literary remains -- which he or she keeps finding, trying to make sense of it all in something like a final ordering.

But it is the other half of the problem which I want to look at: the biographer as creator, the dustman reassembling the dust, like the God of Genesis breathing life into a few handfuls of ashes. For the biographer is as much the inventor, the maker, as the poet or the novelist when it comes to creating a life out of the prima materia we call words, the very stuff, for example, that I am directing at you this moment. Is it not, after all, the illusion of a life which the biographer gives in the process of writing biography, something carried on perhaps over many years, a process of reassembling tapes and letters, discarded drafts and manuscripts, directives and memos, testaments and check stubs, the feel of names and places revisited, people known perhaps still among the living, words, words transcribed, written, uttered, words, words, and more words, which the biographer must shape and select and reorder, until a figure begins again to live in our imagination? It is extraordinary what the biographer feels

-104-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Biography as High Adventure: Life-Writers Speak on Their Art
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Prologue ix
  • One - Biography as a Work of Art 3
  • Two - The Figure Under the Carpet 18
  • Three - Walking the Boundaries 32
  • Four - Biography as an Agent of Humanism 50
  • Five - The Biographer's Relationship With His Hero 65
  • Six - The "Real Life" 70
  • Seven - The Burdens of Biography 77
  • Eight - Biography as a Prism of History 93
  • Nine - Reaassembling the Dust 104
  • Ten - Biography as High Adventure 124
  • About the Biographers 139
  • Index 143
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 146

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.