Sunday, July 04, 2004

[US Politics] WP- A Clinton biographer reviews "My Life":

A skilled biographer, acknowledging the limitations of his craft, once noted that nine-tenths of a human life remains essentially unknowable to an outsider. It is uncharted land, hidden from view, experienced only in the mind of the individual. The truth of that statement is apparent enough when you think about your own daily existence and all the things that run through your consciousness that you never tell anyone, not even those closest to you.

What people do, where they go, whom they see, what they say, what they create, how they are shaped by the world around them and how they reshape that world -- all these parts of a life are known or can be known. The interior life, however, is harder for a biographer to discover, if not altogether impossible. The closest one gets to this subterranean territory is through oral interviews, diaries, letters and memoirs. Even then, navigating this terrain -- where the subject has a self-interest in creating a certain impression -- can be daunting. It was with these ideas in mind that I began reading "My Life," Bill Clinton's autobiography.