Book Summary: David McCullough, Eve Babitz

Earlier this month, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and National Book Award winner David McCullough passed away. Over the course of five decades, he wrote many books on American history, including those relating to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge and the Johnstown, Pennsylvania flood of 1889, but he was especially known for my presidential autobiography, Truman And the John Adams. Both were bestsellers and notable achievements; Both took years to complete. Because of the level of commitment required for these projects, McCullough has always chosen his subjects carefullyHe once said, “It’s like choosing a roommate.” He is not alone in this feeling. In the late-life memoirs, James Atlas, another acclaimed biographer, Concluded that what he paid– It was more than a chance to encounter celebrity life – It was “long days with someone I had never met but would have known better than anyone else in the world.”

The autobiography is a peculiar project, because even when the biographer and the subject never meet, excavations of a life can reveal unseen aspects of the historical context in which they lived. Although writer Catherine Rundel wrote about the poet John Donne centuries after his death, her latest book on his life and work manages to capture his “gift for exploring infinity,” according to My colleague James Parker. And good biographies, such as Robert Samuels and the recent Toulouse Oluronepa of George Floyd, can revive more than one life: the authors organize political analysis and personal history to show clearly that “America has been slowly killing George Floyd for decades,” Imbolo Mbue writes.

But biographies have limits – by definition they always filter the person (often the one who can no longer speak for themselves) from another writer’s point of view. That’s why, despite Lily Anolik’s recent biography of Eve Babitz, hollywood eveWhile telling a compelling story about Babbitts’ life, there’s still more to discover about the beloved writer in her own archives – and in her voice. Through the boxes of drafts, letters and pictures, the reader is treated What is Kevin Dittmar called? “The experience of watching Eve Babitz craft, refine, perfect, and become,” is something only the artist herself can provide.

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what we read

black and white close-up of David McCullough from the shoulders up;  He wears a suit and tie and smiles sweetly.

Fred R. Conrad / New York Times / Re

“History is Human”: Remembering David McCullough

“As loyal to the typewriter, McCullough was strict when it came to his subjects. He didn’t have to love them, but he had to be able to live with them.”


Illustration of a tombstone written on it, like a page in a notebook

John Custer

Seven books grapple with what writers left behind

“What might be the most impressive appeal [Janet] The biographer’s picture of Malcolm “thief” is his account of his attempt to be fair and sympathetic in his work. Upon accessing the papers of Delmore Schwartz (overseen by his longtime friend and critic Dwight MacDonald), Atlas describes a treasure hunt from W. H. Auden and T. S. Eliot, among others, that would delight any literary biographer. But when he leaves the library, what he looks forward to most, he writes, is spending “long days in the company of someone I’ve never met but whom I will know better than anyone else in the world.”


Reversed engraved images of John Donne, one in black and one in white, with cupid-flanked halos and ornate borders on a red background

Illustration of Paul Spilla. Source: Bettmann/Getty; Heritage/Getty Images.

The irresistible unloved John Donne

infinite super It is the title of Kathryn Rondell’s new autobiographical study of Don. It looks like a Monster Magnet album. And indeed, Rondell responded to Don in a bit of heavy metal, scoring an exaggeration. Read the first stanza of “Love Growing,” as you promised, and “All the oxygen rushes in a radius of five miles to welcome you.”


photo of george floyd

Tegumula Butler Adenuga

America that killed George Floyd

Samuels and Olorunnipa deserve all the credit for presenting Floyd as the complex character he was – what is a human? Both authors are black men and parts of the book can easily be mitigated that show Floyd’s many flaws and poor decision-making, but they resisted the urgency. The result is an excellent and thoughtful autobiography. Expertly, a necessary and useful read for all.”


Eve Babbits photo booth.

Huntington Library, Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens

The Los Angeles Woman Reveals Herself

“I was overwhelmed with curiosity about what her papers might reveal. What could the personal documents of a writer who was so public about her private world teach us, about her work? How much of that character was a performer and how much was a reflection of her real anxieties and ambitions?”


information about us: This week’s newsletter written by Emma Sarabo. The book you will read next is Brideshad revisited, by Evelyn Wu.

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