Cover of "The Diary of a Young Girl: Defi...

This installment of discussions about types of writing and using examples of successful writer will focus on Autobiography. Autobiography should be the simplest form of writing, after all it is the author writing about him or herself. Who better than the author would know what happened and why? Actually almost anyone else is better at capturing real events. Every author writes with a bias. When writing about oneself, the intentions are always pure, the outcome always tainted by a preconceived notion of what is right. It is easy to see in someone else’s writing, but your own is the true.

Autobiographies usually depend on the success of the personality being captured. Some autobiographies define the author who would otherwise be unknown.  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is one such book. In ways, she avoids the narcissism that is rampant in books by/about politicians. Her youth makes the writing simple, almost as if she is righting a journal for school. That is also what makes it so compelling.

There are autobiographies about entertainers such as Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. This book is almost one of his routines with some insights (or distractions) from his real life. Ozzy Osbourne wrote (?) I am Ozzy. Not to be harsh, but this is not a life with a lot hidden from view. Chelsea Handler has released at least one book that can be considered autobiographical, although most of her books could fall in to the same category as Steve Martin, comedy with some real life.

Recently we have been bombarded with autobiographies from American politicians. Some of these are entrance pieces such as Dreams From my Father and The Audacity of Hope by Barak Obama, while others are exit pieces justifying actions such as My Life by Bill Clinton and Decision Points by George W. Bush. Although these books can be enlightening, they are usually tailored to a specific audience, primarily people who support the author with out additional explanations required.

The autobiographies that remain the most entertaining are written by the most entertaining people in history. Abraham Lincoln actually wrote three separate autobiographies. Benjamin Franklin also penned his own. My Life in France reveals how much more there was to Julia Childs than her cooking show on PBS. Some let you see just how hard life can be and how surprising it can be for someone to succeed. Frank McCourt wrote two books. The first, Angela’s Ashes, could be considered a biography of his mother, but paints a detailed picture of his own youth. He followed up the with Tis about himself as an adult in the United States. Both are very well written, at times you are compelled to talk to the characters to get them to avoid pitfalls and disaster, but to no avail. He is one of the authors who can report the good choices and bad with somewhat less excuse or justification than most.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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