Lucretius (lucretius) wrote in lifestories,


I'm writing a biography, currently.

Well, sort of--I'm writing the stories of a number of readings--what happened when five different people read the same book, how they understood it, why they understood it that way, and how it changed their lives.

In order to pin this down, I have to understand how they read, and in order to do that, I have to understand, basically, who they were and how they thought, both in general and about themselves.

This is not so easy as one might suppose.

While some of these people were famous enough to have some biography or memoirs written about them, and others wrote autobiographies or notes towards them for various reasons, otherwise, these people are a handful of letters, some critical writings, maybe a few photos and mentions in other people's journals or letters.

I've been finding that I am able to understand someone's life in proportion to how like that life is to mine. Insight is hard to come by, and sympathy is the key. I share some traits with the people I'm writing about, some experiences (very few) some intellectual background with a few of them (despite them being nineteenth-century types).

Still I'm faced with understanding a man who fought a running battle with Indians for two days, then later lost all of his toes, lost in the mountains, hunting for a silver mine (his companion at the time died). A man who later became a doctor, who believed that Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays and that mankind was evolving towards a utopia in which all people would be conscious of their connection to the universe.

He was an asylum keeper, who ordered genital surgery on inmates to keep them from masturbating (implanted wires). At the same time, he virtually worshipped a poet who espoused sexual freedom, wrote extensive passages celebrating his genitals, and was largely considered insane. He invested all of his extra money in a water-meter scheme that never made a dime, thought air travel would eliminate cities as he knew them, and had more children than I can keep track of.

See the connections?

I'm working on it.
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