November 13, 2012

The Appeal of Biography

I think biography was one of the first genres I was ever exposed to as a young adult.

Non-fiction was my first great literary love but it was almost exclusively composed of biological field guides--fish mostly. The Peterson Field Guide to Altantic Fishes was a constant companion of mine as a boy. The book called Sharks & Whales was always close to me.

Sometime during my teenage years, I began to explore government. And biography, to me, was closely intertwined was a genre. My paternal grandmother often had a biography sitting on one of her tables when I would visit as a boy. And my grandfather loved to rehash stories of grand personalities--FDR, Colin Powell, former Virginia U.S. John Warner. 

In high school, when I first read the John Dos Passos trilogy U.S.A., I first began to wonder about what it took to compose biography. I began to marvel at the method.

Big personalities--Big Bill Haywood, Eugene V. Debs, Woodrow Wilson, Thorstein Veblen--leaped off the page in U.S.A. 

I'll never forget the memories of that first read of U.S.A.,  or the painted image of Big Bill in my mind--looming as large as a real-life Paul Bunyan.

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