Monday, November 12, 2012

Frank Talk about Sex with Your Biographer

Hello and welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" A little sex talk today. Keeps us all young and grinning, don't you think?

Let me beat around the bush first ... tee hee ... double entendre ... playground humor ...

I'm rather opposed to biographies about people who are still active in their lives. We can't even count all the biographies of Barack Obama, and wow! He's just beginning a whole new four years of lively history-making work! In a previous incarnation I wrote biographies about people, and trust me, they get out-of-date fast, unless the subject of the biography is embalmed, entombed, or otherwise off the radar. Even then people can have a lasting impact on society -- but that is not necessarily the realm of the biographer.

All this is an introduction to my posing a question. Whose bright idea was it to send a married 40-year-old  woman with children to Afghanistan for a year of intense biographizing of General Petraeus? No-brainer, folks. I'm pretty much made of steel where extramarital activities are concerned, but put me in that situation, for a year, and whew! He's a pretty dynamic guy!

Let the record show that "The Gods Are Bored" understands the Petraeus situation to be beyond the capacity of almost any heterosexual couple to endure. Biographers have to be absolutely consumed by their subjects (try that with John Adams ... zzzzzZZZZZZzzzzz). Biographers also have to be single-mindedly delving into their subjects' lives, probing and interviewing, and interviewing, and interviewing. On the other side of the bed table sits the subject, who -- and I don't care if it's Big Bird, for the love of fruit flies -- absolutely loves all that attention.

It's very flattering to be so adoringly scrutinized. Add to that a gender difference and the fact that both biographer and subject are still ambulatory, and you've got a 90 percent fail rate for marital fidelity.

This may sound harsh, but I rather think it's both unprofessional and unneccessary to send a biographer on a year's trek through tough country in order to craft a biography. Presumably the man had a job to do, and to me it seems like no place for close scrutiny by a civilian. (The military's gonna get him on this, I'll bet.)

A little less colorful, perhaps, but just as biography-worthy, would have been the notion of actually interviewing people who worked with the general in Afghanistan. Or talking to the general about his exploits in the cozy anonymity of a Starbuck's. This is called being scholarly and professional, and it doesn't get your picture all over Facebook.

Don't know about you, but the most annoying part of this for me is that General Petraeus is still alive. Alive and kicking. And we're still fighting over there, and he was running the freaking CIA. As a subject of biography, he's not ready for prime time deployment.

To put an emphatic puch upon this sermon, let's just face facts. Biographies are single-focus, and if you're writing it, and you fall in love with your subject, then you wind up having to write about yourself. Because ... oh, you know what I'm going to say ... the next biographer is going to write about you, at length, and probably after your subject is buzzard bait. A tad embarrassing, that.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I totally agree. And you know, they're digging deep to see if that affair started while he was still in the military. If it did, it's a court-martial offence. I almost typed "court-marital" -- same thing, I guess!

Pitch313 said...

We civilians simply do not understand the needs of manly war-fighter generals or womanly West Point graduate biographers. We civilians live by petty rules that do not apply to the likes of US Army commanders and West Pointer camp followers.

I mean, what's notional security compared to being envied for your arm candy?