I myself am consummately middle class. We grew up in upper-middle-class suburbs in Oklahoma City, and that's very much the same ethos as what Richard Yates and John Cheever wrote about.
I'm a huge fan of 'The Lost Weekend.' I have this dog-eared copy of the 1963 Time Reading Program edition, which was a series of contemporary classics reprinted as a quality paperback.
I write literary biographies, so above all, I have to love the subject's books. But choosing a subject is tough.
If possible, be funny.
With literary biographies, you're either shelved with other biographies or next to your subject's fiction.
I keep three framed photographs on my desk: the latest school picture of my daughter; a photo of my wife getting her diploma from the University of Chicago; and Lytton Strachey, looking serenely self-possessed.
I'm not an academic; I'm just a bookish Joe who gets passionate about certain writers and suddenly wants to read everything they've ever written and find out why they wrote it.
My father was a golden boy from a very small town. He won a very prestigious law scholarship to NYU Law School, and there in Greenwich Village, he met my mother, who was very young, fresh off the boat from Germany.
The whole psychoanalytical establishment in America at midcentury was geared to make people with homosexual proclivities feel like monsters, moral degenerates.
To be a good biographer, you have to be an empiricist. You know, you have to gather the evidence, you have to keep an open mind, and you have to be objective. A memoirist goes in with all the baggage of a bad biographer.
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