Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Do You Need a Biographer?

General Petraeus is lucky.  Everyone can use an appreciative biographer (preferably while still alive).  How wonderful to be interviewed by someone who is really listening, really trying to get what makes you tick, what you are.  A biographer doesn't ask one question.  A biographer looks behind your answer and asks the next question, many questions.  A good biographer might even help you see new parts of yourself.
A biographer gets to know you and understand you.  You feel most authentically yourself when your identity is accurately reflected back to you by another person.  Spouses make wonderful companions, lovers, and life partners, but they also have a stake in you being who they need you to be - a human being, sometimes glowing and shimmery, but also sometimes stressed, exhausted, impatient, and real.  Your spouse already did an in-depth interview, and has moved on to other ways of being with you.  But, to a biographer, you are a diamond mine.  
Here's my proposal:
Let's be biographers of one another.  Can we see partners as diamond mines, begin writing their biography, and continue to write it throughout our lives together?  We could take turns asking questions and write little bits of biography every day.  There are enough questions to make that possible.
"The intimacy that develops between subject and biographer is like no other. It's a collaboration between two sensibilities bent on defying the sentence of oblivion imposed on us all.  As an act of remembrance, biography accomplishes what other, more transient forms of memorial never can:  the preservation of a vanished life."                    - James Atlas, editor of Penguin Lives series
What do you think?  Would you enjoy having a biographer?

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