Gore Vidal on Academic Biographers
| Peter Klein |
Gore Vidal, writing in 1981 in the New York Review of Books:
Lately, American biography has fallen more and more into the hands not of writers but of academics. That some academics write very well indeed is, of course, perfectly true and, of course, perfectly rare. When it comes to any one of the glorious founders of our imperial republic, the ten-volume hagiography is now the rule. Under the direction of a tenured Capo, squads of graduate students spend years assembling every known fact, legend, statistic. The Capo then factors everything into the text, like sand into a cement mixer. The result is, literally, monumental, and unreadable.
Thanks to LRC for the tip. The context is Gore’s praise for David McCullough’s short biography of Teddy Roosevelt (who Vidal calls a “sissy”), Mornings on Horseback.