Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Lives in print

Since the possibility of writing a biography came up, I have been reading a lot of biographies and autobiographies. The first thing I noticed is that an autobiography is a biography written by the person who the book is about. A biography is written about someone by a person who has nothing to do with the subject’s life. Or does, but isn't that person.

Lots of people don’t know that some very famous people never wrote autobiographies. Jim Nabors, for instance. Nor did Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Andy Devine or Sidney Fields. A shocker, right? I found biographies by people I wouldn’t imagine anyone ever wrote about. Like Peter Cooper, the man behind Jell-O. And Marion Donovan, who invented the modern disposable diaper.

Of course there were biographies written about notorious people. Dictators, arsonists, serial killers, terrorists, thieves and con artists have been the subjects of many books. Here, too, there were few autobiographies, save the one written by Ozal Turgut, “friendly dictator” of Turkey from 1983 to 1989 and president from 1989 to 1993. I found his autobiography, though oddly enough it was co-written with Lorne Greene.

I read a few autobiographies and noticed the abusive use of the word “I” in all of them. It made me wonder if I should write an autobiography in the third person.

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