Biography & Autobiography

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Seeds of Grass

Seeds of Grass

IN LOWER MANHATTAN, artists, writers, actors, boozers, braggarts, wits, political activists, journalists, drug adventurers, and assorted hangers-on congregate at a raucous, welcoming watering hole. Bu...

The Curse of Byron

The Curse of Byron

ONE OF THE MOST famous incidents in the course of the Romantic movement is the ghost-story challenge issued by George Gordon, Lord Byron, in the course of a summer evening in 1816 at the Villa Diodati...

Writers’ Private Lives

Writers’ Private Lives

LITERARY BIOGRAPHERS POSSESS a position in our culture at once respectable and ignoble. If they are successful, they illuminate an author’s work, amplifying rather than diminishing it. If not, they ...

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

IF HE WASN’T a Beatle, then who was he? What was he? These were questions Paul McCartney had never had to ask himself, but he was asking them now. It was 1969, the year he’d made the legal moves t...

The Art of Cultivating Friends

The Art of Cultivating Friends

THE MORASS that is the Arab world today does not exactly invite empathy: new terrorist groups sprout every year (spurring fresh attempts to aerially eradicate them); in many places there’s an open c...

Of Sons and Fathers and the Excesses of Form

Of Sons and Fathers and the Excesses of Form

AT THIS POINT, Karl Ove Knausgaard’s six-volume autobiographical novel, My Struggle,is throwing some serious monkey wrenches into the mechanics of book reviewing. Three volumes in, and so much of wh...

In Your Choice Lies Your Talent

In Your Choice Lies Your Talent

WHAT WAS IT about the combination of the acting theories of Constantin Stanislavsky and the United States of America in the middle of the 20th century that produced such vehement loyalties and feroci...

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Himself

Karl Ove Knausgaard, Himself

MEETING KARL OVE KNAUSGAARD is not like meeting other people. It isn’t even like meeting other writers. For one thing, he is taller and handsomer than most, with a sincerity that he wears lightly. ...

The Writer in Pieces

The Writer in Pieces

Let me write fragments without finishing them — at least I’m writing! Even so, this is literature of a kind, in a sense perhaps the only kind. Perhaps it’s impossible for a psychological type li...

Let Me Remind You

Let Me Remind You

“HAVE YOU read Salinger? Very likely you have,” Joanna Rakoff writes toward the end of her memoir My Salinger Year. Everyone has read Salinger — except for Rakoff, who picked up his books for th...

The Sins of the Fathers

The Sins of the Fathers

IF A STANDARD biography arranges a life into digestible arcs of story — makes a life readable, as it were — we know from the outset that Élisabeth Roudinesco’s memoir of the psychoanalyst Jacq...

Donald Rumsfeld: Master of Perception

Donald Rumsfeld: Master of Perception

July 30, 2002, Department of Defense News Briefing: Donald Rumsfeld: [Iraqis] have chemical weapons and biological weapons and they have an appetite for nuclear weapons and have been working on them ...

Shoring Against the Ruins

Shoring Against the Ruins

ON July 7, 1914, a 22-year-old Walter Benjamin, increasingly disillusioned with his time at Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg and in Berlin, wrote to his friend Herbert Belmore: “The university i...

An Invisible Man, A Visible Voice

An Invisible Man, A Visible Voice

A MAN CALLED DESTRUCTION records the life of pop idol-turned-cult hero Alex Chilton. “In titling his 1995 album A Man Called Destruction — his last solo release filled with mostly his own songs ...