Why Biographies?

“In ‘Contemporary Biography’ (1934), Mark Longaker wrote: ‘The present-day reader most often goes to biography because he is most interested in himself,’ One gathers that Longaker meant that one reads biography in search of models of behavior, to discover the secrets behind the facades of public figures, and to compare one’s own life to those of the great and famous. An equally compelling reason for reading biography is that it can reinforce the belief in the power of men and women not only to shape their own destiny but to rise above what seem irresistible trends in politics, economics and social psychology to lead lives of dignity, elegance, achievement and sometimes even grandeur. Well-written biographies remind us that in the end men and women, not impersonal forces, are the true measure and motor force of history.”

Joseph Epstein exploring “On Life-Writing” edited by Zachary Leader

“The Art of Biography,” The Wall Street Journal, Books, Saturday/Sunday, January 2–3, 2016