Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Monday, Apr 4, 2011
Last year, David Remnick received huge attention for The Bridge, his biography of Barack Obama. Eschewing the conventions of the form, the New Yorker editor focussed not on Obama’s private life but his public rise to senator and eventually president of the United States. It is a trick he also employed in 1998’s King of the World, a biography of another African-American icon, Muhammad Ali.

Amongst the praise for King of the World came a perceptive comment from Toni Morrison. “By using the Clay-Liston battle as a pivot and placing Muhammad Ali in an accurate social context, Remnick constructs a narrative very much like Ali himself: astute, double-hearted, irresistible. He is so completely in charge of his craft that it becomes an art.”


Biographies are often shunned by criticism, regarded as a resort of easy virtue. There is undoubtedly craft to presenting one’s life in writing: accurate articulation of events and characters in the subjects’ life; understanding the subjects’ standing and importance in their profession. But it is rare for biographical writing to be considered ‘art’. So how does King of the World differ?


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