Scott Donaldson

The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography

"Interwoven with autobiographical anecdotes and propelled by fascinating stories, The Impossible Craft explains why the writing of biographies is often as conflicted, emotionally fraught, and downright messy as the lives they document."
Kirk Curnutt, author of Coffee with Hemingway

"There may not be another writer in America more qualified than Scott Donaldson to meditate on the agonies -- and separate-peace victories -- of the literary biographer."
Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat

"Donaldson's The Impossible Craft is the goods. Why? Because it's heavily subjective, full of anecdote and 'case studies' as he calls them -- as well as conflicting advice from other biographers… In places, Donaldson practically says, 'And here's where I really, really messed things up.' That's admirable… By describing the pratfalls and traps he fell into, Donaldson reassures us that even the pros make mistakes but can still recover from them."
--Charles J. Shields, biographer of Harper Lee and Kurt Vonnegut

"Being a seasoned practitioner, Scott Donaldson understands the complexities, challenges, and delights of literary biography,.This is a fine take on an ancient, often misunderstood craft."
--Jay Parini, author of Robert Frost: A Life

"Scott Donaldson brings several decades of experience as a literary biographer to The Impossible Craft -- a fascinating study of how and why biographies are written. How does a biographer develop a persona and a voice? How does a biographer deal with the literary heirs? Must a biographer like the subject? Is biography a craft, as the title of this book implies, or an art, or something else? Donaldson has earned he right to have his say on all of these matters."
--James L. W. West III, biographer of William Styron and editor of the Cambridge edition of F. Scott Fizgerald

Selected Works

"A captivating and intimate glimpse of the challenges and rewards of writing lives of novelists and poets."
--Publishers Weekly
Donaldson brings "to the narrative of Fenton's life and career the same effective blend of indefatigable archival skills and the gift of telling a compelling story in an engaging manner that he has displayed in his earlier work."
-Jackson R. Bryer, Hopkins Review
With this book "Donaldson continues to show himself as a beacon in American literary scholarship, a major voice with an awareness of the interconnectedness between biography and criticism."
-Joseph Fruscione, American Literary Scholarship 2009
"For too long Edwin Arlington Robinson has been consigned to the ranks of peripheral poets. Scott Donaldson -- a gifted biographer -- has brought this remarkable man and his poetry vividly to life."
--Jay Parini, poet/novelist/biographer
"...fresh, risky, talky, bold, and ultimately brilliant. We close [the book] deeply satisfied that we’ve read all there is to know about the men."
--Denise Gess, Raleigh News and Observer
"John Cheever: A Biography is clearly an indispensable book."
--Dan Cryer, Newsday
"A stunning portrait...full of intriguing insights."
--Publishers Weekly
Very brief description goes here
"An often illuminating and constantly fascinating mosaic of Ernest Hemingway's mind and personality."
--New York Times Book Review