biography

Griffin Dunne
Chronogram Magazine

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a biographical documentary featuring the life of influential American writer, Joan Didion. Directed by Joan's nephew, Griffin Dunne, the film enlightens the viewer with an unprecedented, intimate perspective on Joan's life and career accomplishments.

The film features interviews from Joan herself, as well as close family and friends, interwoven with contextual archival footage/stills to visualize Joan's astute writing. Joan, famous for bringing order to disorder through her words, exposes, examines and divulges the most pivotal events in American history, making her one of the most recognizable and influential voices within the literary world. The story of this film not only considers Joan Didion the writer, but gives light to Joan Didion, the individual. 

The film will be screened at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, NY on October 13th at 5:45pm as part of the Woodstock Film Festival with a Q & A to follow with Griffin Dunne. 

John A. Farrell is the author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, and Tip O'Neill and the Democratic Century. A longtime journalist, he worked at The Denver Post and at The Boston Globe, where he served as White House correspondent and on the vaunted Spotlight team.

His book is Richard Nixon: The Life.

Otis Redding remains an immortal presence in the canon of American music on the strength of such classic hits as “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Respect,” a song he wrote and recorded before Aretha Franklin made it her own.

As the architect of the distinctly southern, gospel-inflected style of rhythm & blues associated with Stax Records in Memphis, Redding made music that has long served as the gold standard of 1960s soul. Yet an aura of myth and mystery has always surrounded his life, which was tragically cut short at the height of his career by a plane crash in December 1967.

Jonathan Gould is author of the new book: Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life – a major new biography of The King of Soul, timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Redding's iconic performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

Jonathan Gould will be at: The Inquiring Mind Bookstore in Saugerties on August 12th; The Spencertown Academy Festival of Books on September 2nd.

In Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980, New York Times bestselling biographer Craig Shirley charts Ronald Reagan’s astonishing rise from the ashes of his lost 1976 presidential bid to overwhelming victory in 1980. American conservatism—and the nation itself—would never be the same.

As a player, Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel's contemporaries included Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson . . . and he was the only person in history to wear the uniforms of all four New York teams: the Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, and Mets.

As a legendary manager, he formed indelible, complicated relationships with Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Billy Martin. For more than five glorious decades, Stengel was the undisputed, quirky, hilarious, and beloved face of baseball--and along the way he revolutionized the role of manager while winning a spectacular ten pennants and seven World Series Championships.  

But for a man who spent so much of his life in the limelight--an astounding fifty-five years in professional baseball--Stengel remains an enigma. Acclaimed New York Yankees' historian and bestselling author Marty Appel digs into Casey Stengel's quirks and foibles, unearthing a tremendous trove of baseball stories, perspective, and history. His new biography is: Casey Stengel: Baseball’s Greatest Character.

Brad Gooch is a poet, novelist, and biographer, whose most recent book is Rumi's Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love. He is the author of ten previous works, including: the memoir Smash Cut; the acclaimed biography of Frank O'Hara, City Poet; and Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor, which was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and New York Times best seller. The recipient of National Endowment for the Humanities and Guggenheim fellowships, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and is Professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey.

In Rumi's Secret, Gooch brings to life the man and puts a face to the name Rumi, vividly coloring in his time and place—a world as rife with conflict as our own.

  In Identity Unknown, Donna Seaman brings to life seven forgotten female artists, among the best of their day: Gertrude Abercrombie, with her dark, surreal paintings and friendships with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins; Bay Area self-portraitist Joan Brown; Ree Morton, with her witty, oddly beautiful constructions; Loïs Mailou Jones of the Harlem Renaissance; Lenore Tawney, who combined weaving and sculpture when art and craft were considered mutually exclusive; Christina Ramberg, whose unsettling works drew on pop culture and advertising; and Louise Nevelson, an art-world superstar in her heyday but omitted from recent surveys of her era.

Donna Seaman is Editor, Adult Books, Booklist, a member of the advisory council for the American Writers Museum, and a recipient of the James Friend Memorial Award for Literary Criticism and the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award. 

She will be at Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck on Saturday, February 25.

To coincide with the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau's birth, naturalist and historian Kevin Dann has written a biography that fills a gap in our understanding of one modern history's most important spiritual visionaries by capturing the full arc of Thoreau's life as a mystic, spiritual seeker, and explorer in transcendental realms.

The book is Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau.

He was the Wicked Wilson Pickett, the legendary soul man whose forty-plus hits included "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances," "Mustang Sally," and "Don't Let the Green Grass Fool You." Remarkably handsome and with the charisma to match, Wilson Pickett was considered by many to be the greatest, the most visceral and sensual of the classic 1960s soul singers, and as a man who turned screaming into an art form, the most forceful of them all. He was the living embodiment of soul.
 

More than that, Wilson Pickett's journey reads like a guide to popular black American music in the late 20th century.  

For this first-ever accounting of Wilson Pickett's life, bestselling biographer Tony Fletcher interviewed members of the singer's family, friends and partners, along with dozens of his studio and touring musicians. Offering equal attention to Pickett's personal and professional life, with detailed insight into his legendary studio sessions and his combative road style, In the Midnight Hour: The Life and Soul of Wilson Pickett is the essential telling of an epic life.

Kenneth Clark's thirteen-part 1969 television series, Civilisation, established him as a globally admired figure. Clark was prescient in making this series: the upheavals of the century, the Cold War among others, convinced him of the power of barbarism and the fragility of culture. He would burnish his image with two memoirs that artfully omitted the more complicated details of his life.

Now, drawing on a vast, previously unseen archive, James Stourton reveals the formidable intellect and the private man behind the figure who effortlessly dominated the art world for more than half a century: his privileged upbringing, his interest in art history beginning at Oxford, his remarkable early successes.

At 27 he was keeper of Western Art at the Ashmolean in Oxford and at 29, the youngest director of The National Gallery. During the war he arranged for its entire collection to be hidden in slate mines in Wales and organized packed concerts of classical music at the Gallery to keep up the spirits of Londoners during the bombing. WWII helped shape his belief that art should be brought to the widest audience, a social and moral position that would inform the rest of his career.

In The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family, William J. Mann presents a modern revisionist biographical history of one of America’s greatest and most influential families—the Roosevelts—exposing heretofore unknown family secrets and detailing complex family rivalries with his signature cinematic flair.

In Some Writer! Melissa Sweet mixes White’s personal letters, photos, and family ephemera with her own exquisite artwork to tell his story, from his birth in 1899 to his death in 1985. The book is an authorized tribute and is the first fully illustrated biography of E. B. White.

Melissa Sweet is the Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator of many fine children's books including Balloons Over Broadway, a Sibert winner, and The Right Word and A River of Words, both Caldecott Honors.

To have been alive during the last sixty years is to have lived with the music of Paul Simon. The boy from Queens scored his first hit record in 1957, just months after Elvis Presley ignited the rock era. As the songwriting half of Simon & Garfunkel, his work helped define the youth movement of the '60s.

On his own in the '70s, Simon made radio-dominating hits. He kicked off the '80s by reuniting with Garfunkel to perform for half a million New Yorkers in Central Park. Five years later, Simon’s album Graceland sold millions and spurred an international political controversy. And it doesn’t stop there.

Simon has also lived one of the most vibrant lives of modern times; a story replete with tales of Carrie Fisher, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Shelley Duvall, Nelson Mandela, drugs, depression, marriage, divorce, and more. A life story with the scope and power of an epic novel, Peter Ames Carlin’s new book - Homeward Bound is the first major biography of one of the most influential popular artists in American history. 

Ray Kroc was peddling franchises around the country for a fledgling hamburger stand in the 1950s - McDonald’s, it was called - when he entered a St. Paul supper club and encountered a beautiful young piano player named Joan who would change his life forever.

Just as their relationship twisted and turned dramatically, the fortunes of Ray’s new business came perilously close to failure.  Ultimately Ray wrested control of McDonald’s from the original founders; in short order the successful burger stand in the desert of California would be transformed into a stock market sensation and international brand.

To the outside world, Ray and Joan were happy, enormously rich, and giving. But privately, Joan was growing troubled over Ray’s temper and dark secret, something she was reluctant to publicly reveal. And yet, this volatility paved the way for Joan’s transformation into one of the greatest philanthropists of our time.

Journalist Lisa Napoli’s new book is: Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away. 

  Nora Ephron was a phenomenal personality, journalist, essayist, novelist, playwright, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, and movie director (Sleepless in SeattleYou’ve Got MailWhen Harry Met SallyHeartburnJulie & Julia). She wrote a slew of bestsellers (I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman; I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections; Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media; Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women). She was celebrated by Hollywood, embraced by literary New York, and adored by legions of fans throughout the world.

Award-winning journalist Richard Cohen, writes about about his friend in his “third-person memoir,” She Made Me Laugh.

  Mary Martin was one of the greatest stars of her day. Growing up in Texas, she was married early to Benjamin Hagman and gave birth to her first child, Larry Hagman. She was divorced even more quickly. Martin left little Larry with her parents and took off for Hollywood. She didn't make a dent in the movie industry and was lured to New York where she found herself auditioning for Cole Porter. Six years later, she became the Toast of Broadway when she starred in South Pacific. After that, she flew as Peter Pan, yodeled in The Sound of Music, took Hello, Dolly! on the road and shared a four-poster with Robert Preston in I Do! I Do!.

Her personal life was just as interesting and it's all covered in David Kaufman's book, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

  George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, almost singlehandedly decided to invade Iraq. It was possibly the worst foreign-policy decision ever made by a president. The consequences dominated the Bush Administration and still haunt us today.

In Bush, Jean Edward Smith, demonstrates that it was not Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, or Condoleezza Rice, but President Bush himself who took personal control of foreign policy.

  Mark Zwonitzer is an author and award-winning documentary filmmaker. 

His new book The Statesman and the Storyteller, is a dual biography covering the last ten years of the lives of friends and contemporaries, writer Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and statesman John Hay (who served as secretary of state under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt), The Statesman and the Storyteller not only provides an intimate look into the daily lives of these men but also creates an elucidating portrait of the United States on the verge of emerging as a world power.

  In the summer of 1925, The New Yorker was struggling to survive its first year in print. They took a chance on a young cartoonist who was about to give up his career as an artist. His name was Peter Arno, and his witty social commentary, blush-inducing content, and compositional mastery brought a cosmopolitan edge to the magazine’s pages—a vitality that would soon cement The New Yorker as one of the world’s most celebrated publications.

Alongside New Yorker luminaries such as E.B. White, James Thurber, and founding editor Harold Ross, Arno is one of the select few who made the magazine the cultural touchstone it is today.

In his new biography of one of The New Yorker’s first geniuses, New Yorker cartoonist Michael Maslin dives into Arno’s rocky relationship with the magazine, his fiery marriage to the columnist Lois Long, and his tabloid-cover altercations involving pistols, fists, and barely-legal debutantes.

Michael Maslin’s cartoons have been appearing in The New Yorker for nearly forty years. He is the author or coauthor of eight books of cartoons. His new biography is: Peter Arno: The Mad, Mad World of The New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist.

  Charlotte Brontë famously lived her entire life in an isolated parsonage on a remote English moor with a demanding father and siblings whose astonishing childhood creativity was a closely held secret.

Drawing on letters unavailable to previous biographers, Harman depicts Charlotte’s inner life with absorbing, almost novelistic intensity in her new book, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart.

  The Olana Partnership is presenting an illustrated lecture and book signing with acclaimed author Andrea Wulf at Hudson High School on Saturday, April 9 at 4pm. The event will be Wulf’s first East Coast stop on her United States and UK tour.

The Invention of Nature is Andrea Wulf’s newest her award winning biography that reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt and how he created the way we understand nature today.

Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, he turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and inspired Frederic Church on numerous levels. Andrea Wulf joins us to talk about the book and her upcoming event.

  More than a century has passed since Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House, but he still continues to fascinate. Never has a more exuberant man been our nation's leader. He became a war hero, reformed the NYPD, busted the largest railroad and oil trusts, passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, created national parks and forests, won the Nobel Peace Prize, and built the Panama Canal―to name just a few.

Yet it was the cause he championed the hardest―America's entry in to WWI―that would ultimately divide and destroy him. His youngest son, Quentin, his favorite, would die in an air fight. How does looking at Theodore's relationship with his son, and understanding him as a father, tell us something new about this larger-than-life-man?

Eric Burns explores the story and relationship in his book, The Golden Lad: The Haunting Story of Quentin and Theodore Roosevelt.

  On the centennial of his birth, the defining wunderkind of modern entertainment  -- Orson Welles -- gets his due in Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane Hardcover by Patrick McGilligan.

In the history of American popular culture, there is no more dramatic story—no swifter or loftier ascent to the pinnacle of success and no more tragic downfall—than that of Orson Welles. The tales of his youthful achievements were so colorful and improbable that Welles, with his air of mischief, was often thought to have made them up.

McGilligan sorts out fact from fiction and reveals untold, fully documented anecdotes of Welles’s first exploits and triumphs.

  In Huck Finn’s America, award-winning biographer Andrew Levy shows how modern readers have been misunderstanding Huckleberry Finn for decades.

Twain’s masterpiece, which still sells tens of thousands of copies each year and is taught more than any other American classic, is often discussed either as a carefree adventure story for children or a serious novel about race relations, yet Levy argues convincingly it is neither.

  Andy Griffith and Don Knotts met on Broadway in the 1950s. When Andy went to Hollywood to film a TV pilot about a small-town sheriff, Don called to ask if the sheriff could use a deputy. The comedic synergy between Sheriff Andy Taylor and Deputy Barney Fife ignited The Andy Griffith Show, elevating a folksy sitcom into a timeless study of human friendship, as potent off the screen as on.

Andy & Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show is a new book written by Don Knotts’s brother-in-law and featuring extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both men.

  From the time he took up the game of football Joe Montana has been initially been overlooked, not blessed with the prototypical size for a quarter back his skill and understanding of the nuances of the game overcame any perceived shortcomings. In his new biography of the Hall of Famer, Montana: The Biography Of Football's Joe Cool author Keith Dunnavant follows the life and career of one the game's all time greats.

Joe Montana is one of the only three quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls and did so in less than a decade, a two time league MVP, he became the signature player of the NFL landscape throughout the 1980's.

  In his new book, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Jon Meacham, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author, chronicles the life of George Herbert Walker Bush.

He draws on President Bush’s personal diaries, on the diaries of his wife, Barbara, and on extraordinary access to the forty-first president and his family. Meacham paints an intimate and surprising portrait of an intensely private man who led the nation through tumultuous times.

In his new book The Age of Clinton: America In The 1990s, historian Gil Troy, asks us to look past our prejudices about William Jefferson Clinton's Presidency and instead focus on the way in which his time in office shaped the culture of the 1990's. The book also of course sheds light on Hillary Clinton's Political career as we approach the 2016 Presidential Election.

TRUMBO

Nov 25, 2015

  Dalton Trumbo was the central figure in the "Hollywood Ten," the blacklisted and jailed screenwriters. One of several hundred writers, directors, producers, and actors who were deprived of the opportunity to work in the motion picture industry from 1947 to 1960, he was the first to see his name on the screen again. When that happened, it was Exodus, one of the year's biggest movies.

Bruce Cook wrote a biography of Dalton Trumbo and there is now a feature film based on the book. We speak with Cook's widow, Judith Aller.

Of all the grunge bands to emerge from the fertile Seattle scene about 25 years ago, Alice in Chains stood out for its mix of hard-driving rock and affecting harmonies. Despite Nirvana’s reputation as a groundbreaker, it was Alice in Chains that was the first to go national.

As it often does in music, however, success brought problems: drugs, canceled tours, and tragic deaths. All of this makes for compelling reading in the first proper biography of the band, Alice in Chains: The Untold Story, by David de Sola, who also charts the group’s unexpected resurgence over the past decade.

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