There’s something else I’ve come to love about biography: biographers. Last week, Barb and I had a wonderful Indian dinner in DC with Charles J. Shields and his lovely wife Guadalupe, who had braved bad weather and slick roads to attend the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference. It was a terrific time, with good food and even better company — and I’m even more excited now about getting my hands on Charles’ upcoming biography of Kurt Vonnegut, which his publisher, Henry Holt, is rightly making its Christmas 2011 centerpiece bio.
Speaking of top-notch biographers, the Biographers International Organization recently announced that its recipient for the 2011 BIO award — which also means its keynote lunch speaker for this year’s conference here in DC — will be Robert Caro.
Yes, you heard me — and forgive me for being crass here, but — ROBERT EFFING CARO. If there’s a Mount Rushmore of Biographers, he’s on it. If there’s a Beatles of Biographers, he’s John Lennon. A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, his comprehensive, multi-part biography of President Lyndon Johnson stands — in my view, at least — as the ultimate example of what great biography should be: thorough without being mind-numbing, dramatic without being histrionic, and scholarly without being pedantic. (I’ve described my favorite book of his, the third volume of his Lyndon Johnson biography, Master of the Senate, as a biographical thriller.)
We’re less than a hundred days away from the 2011 BIO conference, and slots — as well as hotel rooms — are filling quickly, so if you’re interested in attending, click here for complete information. As a member of the Washington Biography Group, which is serving as this year’s host, I’ll be moderating one panel, but I’ll also be participating as a panelist during the session on “The Role for Fiction in Biography.” Plus, it’s your chance to see Robert Effing Caro live and in person, which is more than enough, really.
Last year’s conference was hugely successful, and a lot of fun. And you don’t have to be a biographer or even a writer to attend. Just loving books is more than enough.