The Biography Panel at the Woodstock Writers Festival | Daily Dose

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Biography Panel at the Woodstock Writers Festival

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 12:29 AM

Henry Bushkin
  • Henry Bushkin
Being a biographer is a particularly selfless calling. You spend years immersed in the life of your subject — J. Michael Lennon, the Norman Mailer biographer, estimates that he read 48,000 letters by the writer — then you laboriously summarize his life, revise and revise your manuscript, get it published, and when people read it they forget your name.

A woman from the audience asked Lennon, "I can't even imagine 48,000 letters. How do you possibly sort through them?"

"Well, first of all, you do it by decade," he explained. "Then, for each decade, you make three piles: 'Absolutely Yes,' 'Absolutely No,' and 'Maybe.' Then, at the end, you take all the letters in the 'Maybe' pile and put them in the 'No' pile. Because there's not enough room for even all of the 'Yes' file!"

Rock legend Alex Chilton had a perfect title for his own memoir: I Slept with Charles Manson, Holly George Warren revealed. (Unfortunately, it was never written.)

Henry Bushkin was Johnny Carson's lawyer for 18 years, until Johnny fired him. Now he's written a memoir, Johnny Carson, but he still seems bewildered, even hurt. "18 years together — it was like a divorce," Bushkin said, almost to himself.

It's surprising how little writing has changed since the Internet, the iPhone, the iPad. Writing is an ancient process, like weaving. (The one exception: biographers can now find the weather report for a particular day online, to discover if their subject was lying in his letter.)

  • Pin It
  • Email
  • Favorite

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • La Guelaguetza Festival

    For the eighth year this August, Grupo Folclórico de Poughkeepsie is bringing La Guelaguetza to Waryas Park in Poughkeepsie, to share the tradition with locals.
    • Aug 1, 2016
  • Punk Pioneers the Scenics Visit Beacon

    The Toronto trio will perform at Quinn's on September 27.
    • Sep 15, 2016

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
7th Annual Clynk for Schools Recycling Challenge @ CLYNK

7th Annual Clynk for Schools Recycling Challenge

Sun., Jan. 28 and Jan. 29-March 26 — CLYNK is urging schools located in towns within a 20-mile radius of...

View all of today's events

Latest in Daily Dose

More by Sparrow

People who saved…

Current Issue

March 1-31, 2018
Issue Cover