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Friday, January 28, 2022

The Reverse Biography

     The Pulitzer Prize winning biographer, Edmund Morris, died in May 2019 at age 78. Not long after his death, his biography of Thomas Edison, entitled Lighting The Way, was published. The book was reviewed in the November 3, 2019 edition of The New York Times Book Review by David Oshinsky who had this to say about Morris's decision to write the story backward.

     "For some unexplained reason, Morris decided to write this saga in reverse, beginning with Edison's final years and working backward to his birth in small-town Ohio in 1847. It's the biographical equivalent of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," though Fitzgerald had the good sense to make it a short story, while Morris's "Edison" comes in at just under 800 pages, including footnotes. Some readers may see the device as gimmickry...At a minimum, it takes some getting used to, because we're never quite certain how one event builds upon another or whether a character who appears early in the book (but late in Edison's life) is central to the story. This leads to a lot of flipping back and forth through the chapters, with a heavy reliance on the index to keep things straight."

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