Brenda Wineapple took the stage yesterday with a cup of Throat Coat tea and the beginning of what sounded like a nasty cold. She apologized to the audience and joked that they would not get to hear her normal voice, which is “quite beautiful.”
Attendees of the Key West Literary Seminar were treated to her insights on the importance of biography. Her stories and references came furiously, from her introduction to the form at her grandmothers’ bedside table (“It was a genre I didn’t understand or much care for”) to her former professors’ naysaying about writing others’ stories. She quoted Emily Dickinson and Geoff Dyer. She defamed biography as an invasion of privacy.
And yet it matters to those who read it and write it. Biography is more than the sum of its parts; more than an “unbearable sequence of happenings” or “dreary resuscitation.” It allows us to perceive the private sides of those in the public eye, and to empathize with them.
In closing, she said, “It’s as hard to write a good life as to live one.”