August 11, 2004

An Autobiography About Someone Else?

Today's Vancouver Sun (August 10, 2004, p. C3) contains a review by Tim Page of the Washington Post of the book The King and I: The Uncensored Tale of Luciano Pavarotti's Rise to Fame by His Manager, Friend, and Sometime Adversary by Herbert Breslin in collaboration with New York Times music critic Anne Midgette. What struck me as odd is the description of the book as an autobiography, which I take to mean a book about the life of the author. Breslin was Pavarotti's manager for more than 30 years, and Pavarotti was his most famous client, so an account of Breslin's relationship with Pavarotti would naturally occupy a prominent place in a biography of Breslin, but even so, the title seems inappropriate for an autobiography in that it clearly focusses on Pavarotti rather than Breslin. Indeed, the review quotes Breslin as calling the book:

the story of a very beautiful, simple, lovely guy who turned into a very determined, aggressive and somewhat unhappy superstar
Judging from the review, the book sounds to me more like a biography of Pavarotti from Breslin's personal perspective than an autobiography of Breslin. It seems to me that for a book to be an autobiography it has to focus on the life of the author. It may well be that what makes the author's life interesting to others is his or her association with someone else, but it is still an autobiography if the focus is on the author. If the focus is on someone else, the book is not an autobiography.

Posted by Bill Poser at August 11, 2004 02:34 AM