It cannot be easy to write the biography of a living person. The first problem is that of authorization: asking the cooperation of the subject inevitably raises the possibility of a veto over the whole work, while going it alone deprives the biographer of both private documents and the testimony of the one individual who knows the biographical material better than anyone else. Without the subject’s cooperation, the contributions from friends and associates, too, are more difficult to obtain, except for the occasional and suspect expressions of bitterness and rejection. Hanging over everything is the threat of a suit for libel, restricted, at least until a recent court decision, to the complaints of living plaintiffs. When to all these hindrances is opposed the advantage of treating a whole life as a completed field of study, there can be no surprise that the best biographies are written after the subject’s death.

But to...


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