A Life in Biography
By Carl Rollyson
A Life in BiographyNov 28, 2020
Danny Fingeroth’s new biography of Jack Ruby
How to deal with a figure so involved with conspiracy theories: What does a biography have to add to history?
Nov 22, 202340:52
Listening to Larry Lockridge, Part 2, biographer turned novelist
What happens when a biographer turns from the themes of his biography to a series of novels that are biographical and then some.
Nov 13, 202336:11
What happened when T. S. Matthews decided to write the first biography of T. S. Eliot? Find out!
A conversation with Karen Christensen about her edition of Writing The Great Tom as well as her own work on a biography of Valerie Eliot.
Nov 12, 202344:16
The role of place and the place of the biographer’s biography in biography
An example from my Lillian Hellman biography.
Nov 11, 202316:08
Larry Lockridge discusses his biography of his father Ross Lockridge and his novel Raintree County
Listen to a fascinating discussion of how biographers deal with success and suicide and what happens when you discover details that fundamentally alter what is known about your subject.
Nov 06, 202341:52
Talking with Dan Van Neste about Warner Baxter, the “accidental star”
Why is it that some important actors are remembered and not others? Find out by listening to this discussion about Dan Van Neste’s biography of Warner Baxter.
Nov 05, 202340:08
The Warner Brothers: How They Became That Way
Movie making in Hollywood’s heyday, but also much that applies to today, to Netflix, Amazon, and the world of streaming
Oct 29, 202338:02
Paula Broussard and Lisa Royére discuss Eleanor Powell: Born to Dance
Two biographers who befriended their subject and lived to tell an inspiring tale of a life well lived and a biography well written.
Oct 22, 202340:18
Eric Laursen talks about his biography of Alex Comfort & The Joy of Sex
Sexologist, gerontologist, novelist, poet, anarchist—just some of the work that Alex Comfort accomplished, the subject of a brilliant new biography.
Oct 15, 202343:27
Sylvia Plath Day by Day, volume 1: Why did I do it. What’s in it?
A podcast that reflects on how I got started on studying Sylvia Plath and why I’ve written so many books about her.
Oct 12, 202316:08
A new biography of Betty Friedan and why it matters.
Rachel Shteir takes us inside of making of her Jewish Lives biography of the author of The Feminine Mystique
Oct 01, 202338:29
An Emergency Podcast: What To Do When You Don’t Have Primary Sources
My response to an email asking me for help
Sep 27, 202311:10
A preview of coming attractions and of my work in progress on presidential biography
Forthcoming podcasts on new biographies of Betty Friedan, Warner Baxter, Alex Comfort, Eleanor Powell, Jack Ruby, T. S. Eliot and my working in progress on presidential biography
Sep 24, 202309:58
FDR Unmasked: What the Biographers Missed
My conversation with neurologist Steven Lomazow about his revelatory book about FDR and the impact of his health on biographies of Roosevelt
Sep 17, 202345:25
Fair Use Biography
Just remember: You are the one in charge of fair use. Don’t give your rights away.
Jul 27, 202316:54
Finding Ursula Parrott: One biographer’s quest.
My talk with Marsha Gordon about her sensational new biography of an important writer you probably have never heard of.
Jul 16, 202339:50
The Different Discourses of Biographers and Subjects
Knowing your subject may mean knowing his or her discourse, and the same can be said of reading biographies when considering the voices of biographer and subject.
Jul 09, 202324:09
The Way I Work
How I go about each day as a biographer, the sources I use, as I assemble my own archive and write my biography—in this case the one I’m working on now: Ronald Colman: Hollywood’s Gentleman Hero
Jul 02, 202325:46
What It Takes To Do Biography
Jun 25, 202321:36
Gabriella Kelly-Davies on writing biographies of scientists and doctors and much more
A wide ranging discussion of how to write about science and medicine in a biographical narrative, with some talk of other biographers including Kai Bird and Hermione Lee
Jun 10, 202343:18
What memory tells us about biography and doesn’t.
A continuation of the previous podcast about the variables in understanding a writer and his world.
Jun 03, 202343:18
The nature of literary power, who holds it, and how the biographer should understand it.
Samuel R. Delany presents the writer as biographical subject and what it is the biographer needs to know about literary world and how reputations are made. But first a discussion of a movie, The Wife
Jun 03, 202352:35
The Power of the Living Biographical Subject v The Power of the Biographer
What does it mean to be powerful in the literary world, and in what sense should the biographer take it seriously?
May 23, 202331:23
Dylan Thomas and why biography matters, with a cameo performance by Marilyn Monroe
The correspondence with Samuel R. Delany continues, with many digressions, but all of them pertaining to biography and the work it can accomplish
May 14, 202334:29
Why a biographer would go ahead when the subject is fiercely resistant
The Sontag saga continues
May 07, 202334:40
Samuel R. Delany refuses to give up on Susan Sontag’s biographers
The seventh part of what is turning out to be a saga—listened to its entirety it amounts to a class on biography that you can take for free.
Apr 30, 202346:31
Seamus Heaney in America with biographer Ed O’Shea
A talk about Ed O’Shea’s recent book and what matters about Seamus Heaney’s experience in America
Apr 30, 202334:40
What Does It Mean to Know a Biographical Subject
An intervention by the New York Times and the story of a club of unauthorized biographers
Apr 23, 202335:00
Round 5 of The Biographer and His Critic
I continue the debate with Samuel R. Delany, reading from our correspondence and talking about it. In this episode, Sontag has her say.
Apr 15, 202334:35
Round 4: The Biographer and His Critic
Samuel R. Delany continues to point out the error of my ways, and I respond with my own letters and commentary.
Apr 08, 202342:00
The Biographer and His Critic: Round 3
I continue to read and comment on my correspondence with Samuel R. Delany concerning the proper behavior of a biographer.
Apr 01, 202349:39
A Collector’s Item: A Dialogue About Biography
The correspondence of Carl Rollyson and Samuel R. Delany, a latter day version of Oscar’s Wilde’s The Critic as Artist, in the form reminiscent of a Platonic dialogue.
Mar 25, 202329:43
The Ethics of Biography and a Confession
The ethics of biography apply not only to the biographer but also to those who choose to cooperate with a biographer and those who do not.
Mar 18, 202324:57
Finding Jackie: A conversation with Oline Eaton about her new biography
Pay attention to the subtitle of Finding Jackie: A Life Reinvented. How Oline Eaton deals with the making and unmaking and making of a fascinating life.
Feb 11, 202333:54
Remembering a great friend & biographer with Mary Dearborn, Diana Jacobs, Sydney Stern, Amanda Vaill
We celebrate the late Marion Meade, novelist and biographer of Dorothy Parker, Buster Keaton, Woody Allen, and others by her fellow biographers and friends.
Feb 08, 202348:35
The tables are turned: Author and publisher Karen Christensen interviews me!
Some penetrating questions and comments on my practice as a biography in an interview with Karen Christensen
Feb 01, 202357:11
Dealing with sources, people and archive, the good,, the bad, and the ugly, with Doug Munro
My resident Pacific Islands historian/biographer, Doug Munro,, discusses the successes and failures with sources, in the archives and in person, and I respond with my own tales of horror and deliverance
Jan 29, 202347:06
The History Wars! In Australia, but it happens here too. Biographers Beware
Part 2 of a conversation with Pacific Islands historian/biographer, Doug Munro, about the cross overs between history and biography, and on the polarization in Australia and here.
Jan 22, 202346:56
A new biography of William Faulkner’s great-grandfather, avatar and precursor
Historical archeologist Jack Elliott explains why we need a new biography of Faulkner’s great-grandfather. Listen to an authentic Mississippi voice!
Jan 14, 202341:42
Doug Munro on Biography and History: Where They Meet and Deviate
A conversation about why history was not enough for Doug Munro, and why he turned to biography, which is also quite not enough
Jan 08, 202341:22
Choosing My Subjects: A Fireside Chat
A year end podcast reflecting on the contingencies of biography.
Dec 31, 202229:26
Two Mailer biographers discuss why he still matters, and why they write about him.
My conversation with J. Michael Lennon, Mailer biographer and interlocutor reflecting on a lifetime with his subject.
Dec 18, 202249:44
Mahala Stripling on her biography of Richard Selzer, the doctor who made an art of medicine
Richard Selzer inspired the work of a generation of doctor/writers. Listen to how he did it, and how his biography is shaping up.
Dec 10, 202236:32
A talk with Bob Batchelor about his new biography of Jim Morrison, The Doors, and the Sixties
A wide-ranging conversation about what you might call the music of biography.
Nov 27, 202249:52
A conversation with Norman Lock about Voices in the Dead House, novels, biography, and much more
I talk with Norman Lock about his American novel series, and why it should matter to biographers. This is my longest, most searching podcast.
Nov 19, 202257:04
Ellen Brown talks about her work in progress, a biography of Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams, copyright, fair use, research—Ellen Brown covers it all
Nov 13, 202242:28
Biography By the Day
What it is like trying to capture a day by day account of William Faulkner’s life.
Nov 05, 202216:25
How Diane Diekman became a biographer and her work in progress on Randy Travis
How a biographer begins with nothing—no contacts, no track record—and is successful anyway, writing biographies of Faron Young and Marty Robbins. And wait until you hear about her newsletter!
Oct 29, 202244:12
Are you the same person you were when you were a child? How this question pertains to biography—the one you are writing and mine.
Oct 22, 202244:12
How James Meredith broke the segregation barrier at Ole Miss
A conversation with Kathleen Wickham about her book, James Meredith: Breaking the Barrier” and her other work dealing with journalists who covered the 1962 riot at Ole Miss
Oct 08, 202227:19