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Monday, December 4, 2023

'The lives it illuminates'


“I think a biography is only as interesting as the lives and times it illuminates.” – A. Scott Berg

Born in Connecticut on this date in 1949, Berg is one of America’s premier biographers, “illuminating” the lives of such famous Americans as Samuel Goldwyn, the founder of MGM; aviator Charles Lindbergh; and actress Katherine Hepburn.


The son of longtime film producer Dick Berg, Scott graduated from Princeton and then got into writing biographies by expanding upon a senior thesis he chose to do on longtime editor Maxwell Perkins, the editor who handled both F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway for the New York-based publisher Scribner’s.  


Max Perkins: Editor of Genius, his first full-length effort, won the National Book Award.   His second book was Goldwyn: A Biography, and his third Lindbergh, the acclaimed New York Times bestseller that won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.


  Berg set a goal at age 22 of writing “a series of biographies about great 20th Century American cultural figures from different parts of the country” and has completed one about one every 8-10 years.  The latest of those is Wilson, about President Woodrow Wilson.  


“I am a compulsive worker,” he said about his writing pace.   “But I'm also a compulsive relaxer.”

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