American Biography

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iUniverse, 2006 M02 22 - 302 pages
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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: the American left's failure to reckon with Communist subversion, McCarthyism, and Stalinism, the problematic nature of authorized biography, the history of American biography, definitive biographies, literary biography, the differences between autobiography and biography, the importance of interviews in biographies of contemporary figures, the differences between history and biography, comparative biographies, the virtues of short biographies and of biographies for children, the tendency of biographers to fictionalize and of novelists to biographize, psychology and biography, Rollyson's own experience as a biographer, and the way biographers treat one another's work.

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 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 written on the behalf of biography, a genre that still awaits a full vindication.
 

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Contents

ELIZABETH BISHOP AND LOTA DE MACEDO SOARES
13
BILL CLINTON
26
JONATHAN EDWARDS
42
ZELDA FITZGERALD
57
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
64
ARSHILE GORKY
72
ALEXANDER HAMILTON
78
LILLIAN HELLMAN
85
GOUVERNEUR MORRIS
172
GREGORY PECK
178
POCAHONTAS
185
RONALD REAGAN
192
KENNETH REXROTH
199
THEODORE ROOSEVELT
207
HENRY ROTH
214
CARL SANDBURG
220

PATRICIA HIGHSMITH
93
WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS
101
HENRY JAMES
107
JOHN JAY
114
WELDON KEES
120
CANADA LEE
127
ABRAHAM LINCOLN
133
CAROLE LOMBARD
142
AUDRE LORD
148
MICHAEL MCGIVNEY
156
MARGARET MEAD AND RUTH BENEDICT
159
LEE MILLER
166
BETTY SHABAZZ
228
JEAN STAFFORD
234
EDWARD TELLER
241
CLARENCE THOMAS
244
MARK TWAIN
251
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THOMAS JEFFERSON
257
MARTHA WASHINGTON
263
EUDORA WELTY
269
WOODROW WILSON
276
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT
282
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About the author (2006)

Carl Rollyson is a professor of English at Baruch College, The City University of New York. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He has written several biographies of prominent writers and has contributed essays to numerous reference works. He lives in Cape May, NJ.

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