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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