How to Do Biography: A Primer by Nigel Hamilton

By Nigel Hamilton

Assessment This fantastic work--basically, a how-to book--is accomplished in its therapy of every thing essential to making a released biography. Hamilton, who has authored biographies of box Marshall Montgomery, John F. Kennedy, and invoice Clinton, right here leaves not anything unsaid at the topic. He completely info biography's schedule and motivation and describes its target market, who will count on whatever of a revelation about the human condition...He also scrutinizes autobiography and memoir writing, the outcome of telling the reality, and biography's afterlife. the phenomenal excerpts Hamilton selects from released biographies to demonstrate his issues are either edifying and interesting. --Robert Kelly (*Library magazine* 20080501) Drawing guideline from his personal life of biographic paintings and others'--including Samuel Johnson, Robert Caro, David McCullough, Hermione Lee, Edmund Morris, and others whom Hamilton has popular, identified and labored with--the writer takes readers on an highbrow trip during the artistic technique, from belief to publishing...Hamilton's ardour, lyricism and selection of telling anecdotes make this "short e-book of recommendation" an unforeseen page-turner; it really is challenging to not get stuck up within the author's romantic imaginative and prescient of biography, a sort he believes has approximately as many diversifications as song. Elucidating not only the dos and don'ts of biography, but in addition the whys and hows, Hamilton has created a motivating, empowering consultant for writers (and enthusiasts) of the style. (*Publishers Weekly (starred review)* 20080706) nobody writing biography can find the money for to disregard this edifying booklet. Nigel Hamilton has the intensity and breadth of expertise to put in writing a couple of style that he champions...While this can be a “how-to” publication, even the main pro biographer will locate a lot of worth approximately selecting a topic; doing proposals for biographies; dealing with interviewing; negotiating the perils of publishing unauthorized biographies; handling biographical narratives; writing with an viewers in brain; and the nexus among memoir, autobiography, and biography. --Carl Rollyson (** 20080726) [*How To Do Biography*] bargains a well-written, brilliant, and, given its brevity, particularly encompassing evaluate of what it really is biographer does and the way he is going approximately doing it...Hamilton is kind of eloquent and persuasive in discussing how issues come round on the finish, not just at demise, yet after, while the existence meets posterity. --Sven Birkerts (*Boston Globe* ) The booklet is filled with stable suggestion and engaging tales. --Owen Richardson (*The Age* ) in regards to the writer Nigel Hamilton is the writer of prize-winning biographies of box Marshal Bernard Montgomery and of John F. Kennedy. he's presently a Fellow of the McCormack Graduate institution of coverage reviews, collage of Massachusetts Boston, the place he's writing a three-volume biography of President Clinton.

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Phony. No biographer ticks off a list before starting, however logical and wha t is yo u r a g e n d a ? 23 helpful such a procedure might be. So I scrapped the bullet points; I’m not going to ask you anything. What I will do, though, is run through the “bare necessities” you should consider when deciding whether to tackle a life, and I’ll provide some examples. The Proposal At some point—sooner rather than later—you will, if you are serious about writing a life, have to produce what’s called the “proposal,” in order to get funding for what will take several years of research and writing.

Clarifying, for others, your conception of the biography you’d like to write is the first hurdle you’ll have to overcome. As we’ll see, it’s not something you can do without some preliminary research, but recognizing that this is Goal Number One is the initial step in “doing” a biography. The proposal must set forth your agenda with clarity and purpose: whose life you wish to record; why; and how. Although the proposal will be a real document and, if accepted, the basis of an agreement or contract between you and a publisher or funding body, it is of course a figment of your imagination—not unlike Christopher Co- 24 g e tting star te d lumbus’ assurance to Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492, when he was seeking Spanish support and investment, that he would find a western sea route to India.

These are among the pearls of modern literature, and maintain their timelessness in part because of their quasi-biographical form—their authors having recognized the very opportunities and challenges to which Johnson had alluded, but which had been legally and socially off limits to real-life biographers. The world of biography changed in the early decades of the twentieth century, as did, eventually, the laws safeguarding people’s reputations and the social mores restricting biographers’ access to private lives.

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