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Unauthorized Biographies: A Glimmer of Truth

by Will Wlizlo


Tags: gossip, biography, great writing, Kitty Kelley, The American Scholar, Will Wlizlo,

Kitty KelleyOver the course of her career, unauthorized celebrity biographer Kitty Kelley has been accused of many ethical lapses: She’s been dubbed a “poison-pen biographer” and “an assassin of honorable statesmen,” her journalistic drive portrayed as “all about finding dirt, not the truth,” and her work accused of being “garbage and sleaze” and “exceed[ing] the bounds of decency” with “flagrant and absurd falsehoods.” You’d be excused if you find her salacious, door-busting profiles of the rich and powerful little more than sensational A-list gossip—this has been the press’ narrative of Kelley’s work, from her biography of Frank Sinatra to a profile of George Bush and family to her latest book on Oprah Winfrey. Kelley, in an essay for The American Scholar, argues that her work (and unauthorized biographies in general) occupies a much higher place than mere tabloid rumor: a gritty bastion of the free press.

“I believe that the best way to tell a life story is from the outside looking in,” begins Kelley’s defense,

In the essay, Kelley also takes issue with celebrities’ “corrosive sense of self-entitlement”:

One of Kelley’s best quotes comes toward the end of the article. She recounts how she was included in a book called 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (number 80): “Granted, this was not nearly as illustrious as being on Nixon’s enemies list, but when the Associated Press called for a reaction, I said I was proud to be included in any group with President Jimmy Carter, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, and actor/activist Harry Belafonte.”

Source: The American Scholar 

Image courtesy of www.kittykelleywriter.com.