Friday, October 28, 2011

The Biographer's Dilemma


I haven't posted in a while because we have freshly made baby girl in the house—our own baby girl, fortunately, and not unexpected. While I've been in the soup of newborn parenthood, I ran across an excellent column by the excellent columnist Joe Nocera (see photo), in the not-always excellent New York Times. (Hey, we all pick on the Times; but it's still about as good a newspaper as there is.) He used a title that I should have picked for this blog: "The Biographer's Dilemma."

Mr. Nocera writes about business, and he does it with a keen, thoughtful, non-bloviating voice. In fact, you can often hear that voice on the Times's weekend business podcast, which should be required listening for anyone interested in breaking economic news.

I'll leave you to read it. It's a great commentary on biography in general, and Walter Isaacson's highly praised Steve Jobs. But here are the last two paragraphs, which should be taken to heart by readers and writers:

"There is another kind of distance biographies of the living lack—the distance of time. It can take decades to truly understand the context in which the subject's life and achievements played out. Often we need to see what happens after he is gone to realize his true impact on our world. Steve Jobs has been dead for three weeks. We're not even close to that understanding.


In “Steve Jobs,” Walter Isaacson has recounted a life — a big, sprawling, amazing life. It is a serious accomplishment. What remains for future biographers is to make sense of that life."

1 comment:

laurie said...

Congratulations on your baby!