Friday, February 13, 2009

Biography Beat, February 2009

Here are a few short notes about the world of biographical books.

Chicago Tribune Live! Books & Media Features Graphic Memoirs

While the size of the weekly book section in the Chicago Tribune has shrunk, the remaining editors have done something interesting. In the Saturday, January 31, 2009 issue, they have featured memoirs, including some in graphic novel format intended for adults. On page one is a review of the graphic memoir My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley, which includes six stories about his life. The first is called "Sex History" and is reportedly quite frank. It will be interesting to see how many libraries add this item. Three libraries in my consortium have it currently. Though the book review was featured two weeks ago, there are no reserves.

A second edgy graphic memoir is Capacity by Theo Ellsworth, which is described as being about the artists "innermost imagination." No library owns this title, according to WorldCat. It is not offered by Baker & Taylor. It may be purchased through Amazon. To get a sense of Ellsworth's art, see his Capacity Online website.

Many libraries are adding a third title reviewed by the Tribune. American Widow is a memoir by Alissa Torres, whose husband died in the World Trade Center in 2001. In panels drawn by Sungyoon Choi, Torres tells about the ordeal of being a single parent confronting life without her supportive husband. Thomas Ford's copy is in processing.


Mostly Memoirs in Book Ahead

In the Biography section of the February 2009 issue of Baker & Taylor's Booking Ahead, which highlights books coming out in April 2009, there are 10 memoirs and one biography. The Thoreau You Don't Know by Robert Sullivan, the sole biography strives to throw a new light on the nineteenth century essayist. According to Sullivan, Thoreau was not a recluse and enjoyed the company of people more than some biographers have led us to believe.

There is a definite television celebrity theme to the collection of memoirs debuting in April. Among the authors are Mary Tyler Moore, Marie Osmond, and Bob Barker. These seem like names from the distant past to me, but "Dancing with the Stars" and perpetual reruns keep their work before viewers. In a fourth television related memoir, tennis champ Monica Seles also tells about her "Dancing with the Stars" experiences (among other memories) in Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self.

Television actress Tori Spelling continues her story in Mommywood.

The movie actress Marlee Matlin also has a memoir, I'll Scream Later. I remember her story well from the 1980s when she starred in Children of a Lesser God with William Hurt. I was surprised to discover that this is her first memoir. I thought that she had one already. She has also written three teen novels.

In the past Baker & Taylor included notes about print runs and promotion budgets for the books expected to be popular. That seems to be missing in this issue. I wonder if the economy has caused layoffs at B&T.


Biography Groups at Shelfari

For those who do not know, Shelfari is social software for people who like to discuss the books that they 1) want to read, 2) are reading, or 3) have read. Through the Shelfari pages of one of my coworkers Julie, I learned that there is a group devoted to biography readers. The group is aptly called Biographies, Autobiographies & Memoirs. As of this moment, there are 551 members of the group and 40 discussions.

There is also a more specialized group, Presidential Biography. A slightly less specialized group is Mostly Biography, Classics & History.


The Biography Podcast Begins Valentines Day

I learned through the tweet of someone calling himself Otto Biography that a podcast devoted to biographies starts Valentines Day, Saturday, February 14, 2009. The website for The Biography Podcast is up. Twice a month Chris Gondek will be interviewing the authors of new biographies. You can listen from the site or subscribe to the feed.

1 comment:

Citizen Reader said...

This is a great, informative post, Rick. Thank you so much! Biographies aren't my favorite nonfiction genre so I always enjoy hearing what's going on in the biography world from someone I trust (I would never go seek out this info on my own).