William Wright About the Participants
January 13-16, 2000

WILLIAM WRIGHT (Moderator) has this to say about himself: “Although I came to writing late, I had for years been in the neighborhood, mostly as an editor for Holiday Magazine. I was most fortunate that this was in that magazine’s glory days when our table of contents shimmered with names like V.S. Pritchett, John Steinbeck, Laurence Durrell, Truman Capote and Santha Rama Rau. Any dreams of writing I may have had were squelched by an editor who was convinced that one was a writer or an editor, never both. He considered me a first-rate editor.

When in 1965 Holiday fell victim to a corporate takeover, I accepted an offer from Gian Carlo Menotti to be general manager of his festival of the arts in Spoleto, Italy. The turmoil of that zany, harrowing, wonderful year moved me to defy my editor's dictum and write about the experience, more as a form of therapy than as an assault on the literary world. But the exercise worked--both for me and in the eyes of a handful of publishing types--and I have been writing ever since. "During a rough patch as a free-lancer, I took a job as editor of Chicago Magazine, a city-sponsored organ that I was mandated to make ‘independent.’ I justified my temporary retreat from full-time writing with the self-congratulatory observation that anyone who has worked for Menotti and Mayor Daly (the old, Styrofoam one) has not had an altogether uninteresting career. “Although non-fiction writers who specialize generally make the most money, in my years of writing journalistic-style books, I have worked hard at keeping the subjects as varied as possible. I have written biographies, books on criminal cases, books of social commentary and most recently one on science (genetics of behavior). This push for variety is probably an outgrowth of my Holiday upbringing where we believed good writers should be able to write on any subject. But it also appeals to my restless nature. Writing non-fiction books enables what I call the Huckleberry Finn syndrome: total immersion in a subject, but when the job is done (or in Huck’s case, things get sticky), untying the raft and poling your way down the river to a new adventure. It has been a blast.”

Bill neglected to say that he graduated from Yale in 1952, served as a Chinese translator for the U.S. Army Security Agency from 1952-1955, is an Honorary Director of the Key West Literary Seminar and the Chair (and inspiration) of next year’s Seminar, Science & Literature: Narratives of Discovery.

  • Ball, Dutton, 1972
  • The Washington Game, Dutton, 1974
  • Heiress: The Rich Life of Marjorie Merriweather Post, New Republic Books, 1978
  • Rich Relations (a novel), Putnam, 1980
  • Pavarotti: My Own Story, Doubleday, 1981
  • The Von Bulow Affair, Delacort, 1983
  • Lillian Hellman: The Image, The Woman, Simon and Schuster, 1986
  • All the Pain that Money Can Buy, Simon and Schuster, 1991
  • Sins of the Father, Crown, 1991
  • Pavarotti: My World, Crown, 1995
  • Born That Way, Knopf, 1998