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Friday, April 7, 2017

Can A Biography Accurately Serve As One’s Legacy?

When rock star Chuck Berry passed away recently, at age 90, news accounts highlighted his accomplishments and brushes with the law, providing a quick narrative of a man who is considered legendary.  The only proper way to honor or examine one’s life is to read books by or about someone.  Usually, it’s recommended that one read several books to get a more well-rounded view of someone.  Of all the things that books can or should do for us, one of the greatest things is that books can serve as a legacy and a lasting record of one’s life.

Too often people get reinvented and revaluated with biographies or their own memoirs, especially those that are published after one’s passing.  Even now, we still have new spins on the lives of people long gone, including Abraham Lincoln, Jesus Christ, and others.  New information, scientific evidence, or ways to put a life into perspective come about sometimes decades or centuries past one’s final days.

Which is more reliable – books written while someone’s alive or dead?

The book that comes out while one is alive may lack distance and historical perspective, since the subject is still alive and kicking.  Further, there may be legal or financial reasons as to why something gets included or excluded from one’s biography or autobiography.  But once one dies, these pressures or influences tend to subside or disappear.

The book that comes out many years after the subject is dead may lack first-hand accounts, as those who knew the subject have died off as well.  But, the writer who has the advantage of reading all prior books on the subject allows for a little less bias on the part of the writer.

In the era we live in today, biographies can be authorized and even paid for by the subject.  Anyone can self-publish their story as well.  Before one can properly appreciate and digest a biography, he or she has to have a clear understanding of the motives behind the writer, when the story was written, and how it compares to other books about this person or the era he or she thrived under.

I noticed in a local newspaper’s obituary for Berry, an author of a biography on him written 12 years ago, was quoted.  It turns out I had promoted him, Bruce Pegg, when his book originally came out, Brown-Eyed Handsome Man:  The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry.  So you see, biographies and memoirs eventually become the lasting, authoritative texts on one’s life.  One’s entire life and contributions or shortfalls, whatever they may be, will live on forever in the books we write.  

History is not what actually happened, but how it gets recorded and shared.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 


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