Tag Archives: biography

Even If It’s Hopeless

Excerpted from The Mayor of Castro Street:  The Life and times of Harvey Milk by Randy Shilts, ©1982: Harvey himself never talked much about his childhood in Woodmere and Bayshore, except for two stories. First, the August afternoon a few weeks after his graduation when he was briefly picked up by police for indecent exposure. …

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Rhythm and Length

   Excerpted from an article in The Nation about Joan Didion: In Blue Nights, her 2011 memoir about grief, family, and work, Didion said that when she and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, worked on dialogue for their screenplays, they would mark the time a character spent speaking before coming up with the words themselves: …

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Cosy Mathermatical Sense of Wellbeing

 Eve Babitz on writing and art (source): In the tenth grade I took a test and got the highest grade in the city in grammar. I had learned the kind of cosy mathematical sense of wellbeing you can derive from a parsed sentence. I liked the way a sentence looked all Royal Familyed up with …

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Chang and Eng

Excerpted from The Two, the biography of the original Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng Bunker, by Irving and Amy Wallace, ©1978: On another visit to Philadelphia, the fact that the twins were genuinely united saved them from a fine or jail. A spectator, shaking hands with Chang, squeezed his hand painfully hard. Immediately, Chang punched …

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The Outer Fringe

Americans: A Book of Lives ©1946 by Hermann Hagedorn has been really fun and informative.  In this excerpt, he shared horticulturist Luther Burbank’s concept of life, the universe, and everything: “Life,” Burbank wrote, “is not material… the life-stream is not a substance. Life is a force– electrical, magnetic, a quality, not a quantity.” He saw …

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Phonograph

In this excerpt from Americans: A Book of Lives ©1946. Hermann Hagedorn describes the moment Thomas Edison first tested his new invention to record and play back sounds: Three weeks after his interest had first been stirred, he (Thomas Edison) handed his chief mechanic a rough sketch of a queer-looking instrument, including a metal cylinder …

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Rivals

“The important thing for him was to see himself as part of the cosmos and related to it, not a ‘rival god,’ shaking his fist at the skies.”  ~Hermann Hagedorn’s description of Oliver Wendell Holmes, from his book Americans: A Book of Lives ©1946

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In a world seduced by easy understanding…

This short excerpt from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014, was a big help to me in understanding his poems.  It’s a tremendous relief to know I’m not supposed to “get it” right away: Modernism as (E.E.) Cummings and his mid-twentieth-century colleagues embraced it had three parts. The first was …

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Slow Down the Inexorable Rush

Excerpted from the preface to E.E Cummings: A Life by Susan Cheever, ©2014 Princeton poet Richard P. Blackmur said (E.E.) Cummings’s poems were “baby talk,” and poetry arbiter Helen Vendler called them repellent and foolish: “What is wrong with a man who writes this?” she asked. Nothing was wrong with Cummings– or Duchamp or Stravinsky …

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Time, Time, Time; Look What’s Become of Me…

Excerpted from Toward One World: The Life of Wendell Willkie by Bill Severn, ©1967: Another difficulty was his lack of any sense of time. When he was interested in something, time meant little to him and he found it hard to become used to the military day with activities regulated to specific hours. In later …

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This Luminous Beggar

Excerpted from Misia by Robert Fizdale and Arthur Gold © 1980, Misia Natanson writes of her friendship with the poet Paul Verlaine: It was there that I struck up a friendship with Paul Verlaine. Usually between benders, and always sad, he would come in the early evening, sit down with me, drink, read me beautiful …

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Little White Lies

Excerpted from A Remarkable Mother by Jimmy Carter, © 2008: When the reporter arrived at the Pond House, Mama (Lillian Carter) instructed her that she would not answer any questions about my boyhood, because all of it was covered in my book Why Not The Best? Soon, however, an inevitable question came: “Miss Lillian, your …

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