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The Living and the Dead: A Conversation Presented by The Leon Levy Center for Biography
Saturday, November 17, 2018 @ 3:00 pm
300 NE Second Ave., Miami, Fl 33132 United States
The task of the biographer is to resurrect the dead–or so we think–to bring back to life a figure who has receded from our consciousness. This has been the life’s work of two of our most distinguished biographers. Stacy Schiff has reached back (with the exception of her book on Vera Nabokov) to the remote reaches of time, from Cleopatra to the Salem Witches and Ben Franklin. Kai Bird has chosen figures closer to our own time–Robert Oppenheimer, the Mcbundy brothers, and now a still-living subject, Jimmy Carter. You could say that Schiff’s subjects are *more* dead. How does proximity affect the biographer’s method? Is there an advantage to having the excess of documentation offered up by the living and near-living? Or does the biographer drown in the research? By knowing more, do we end up knowing less? Maybe knowing less is an advantage: it forces us to invent, or at least conjecture in a responsible way. Clearly, on the evidence of these two accomplished biographers, both methods work. With Stacy Schiff (The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem), Kai Bird (The Good Spy The Life and Death of Robert Ames), and James Atlas (The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale).