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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Writing Bulletin: How Factual are Biographies?

     As a literary form, is there such a thing as pure nonfiction? How close to pure nonfiction can a biographer get in recreating the life of his subject? In a 1968 magazine interview, Irving Stone, the originator of the so-called biographical novel, suggests that, in biography, there is no such thing as pure nonfiction:

     "You can never get 100 percent documentation on what a man or woman thought and did throughout a lifetime. Even if you get everything available, and that is what I strive for, you are still a way short of a full understanding of that individual because thousands of hours of interior monologue are unrecorded--many of the days, weeks and months of worry and anxiety and frustration and taking time to think through a problem....It is very difficult for the author to know what went on in that mind, step by step."

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