QUESTION: What unwritten autobiography, by someone living or dead, would you most like to read, assuming it would be complete and truthful? In no more than two sentences, why?

Yearning for Books

September 29, 2002

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

is Republican candidate for governor. A graduate of Princeton University and Wake Forest School of Law, he has served as a member of Congress representing Maryland's 2nd District for the past eight years.

I would have to say my great-grandfather, Otto Ehrlich, who immigrated to this country from Bavaria in 1914. He was a hardworking man who realized that, through integrity and dedication, opportunity exists for all that seize the moment.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

is Maryland's lieutenant governor. The founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, she is Democratic candidate for governor.

Madeleine Albright has led an extraordinary and inspiring life, accomplishing goals that were once unthinkable for women. Her career on the global stage gave her unique insight and understanding of the motivations of world leaders, which I would find fascinating. I would also be interested to learn how she maneuvered through the State Department bureaucracy while working with both Congress and the White House to accomplish American diplomatic objectives.

Clarinda Harriss

is chair of the Towson University English Department. She has published three collections of poetry and contributed two scholarly works on poetry. Her work appears in many magazines. She edits and directs BrickHouse Books Inc., Maryland's oldest continuously publishing small press.

The "true and accurate" autobiography I'd most like to read, if it existed, is Sappho's. All bio entries about her, including the note in the publicity for Anne Carson's new translation of her poetry (If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho), begin with "little is known." I want to KNOW: how she managed to anticipate by 26 centuries the pop song I heard on my car radio last night -- the one about pitying a lover who can't have the thrill of sitting next to him / herself; how it feels to be right up there with Tieresias and Little Richard in the pantheon of bisexual superstars; how she learned to make great poems out of plain language.

Steve Weinberg

started writing in 1968 about the impact of the public and private sectors for newspapers, magazines and, eventually, book publishers. From 1983 to 1990, he also served as executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors, a membership organization serving journalists across the United States and in many other nations.

Richard Cheney's autobiography. As an investigative reporter, I have been trying to understand for decades precisely how the branches of government and various private corporations influence millions of lives every day in so many ways. Cheney has been ideally positioned inside the legislative and executive branches of government, as well as inside corporate offices. What revelations he could provide about the good, the bad and the downright corrupt.

Michael Beschloss

is the author of seven books about American presidents, including the forthcoming The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945. (Simon and Schuster, November).

Franklin Roosevelt, who did not live to write memoirs. While presiding over one of the most eventful and important presidencies in American history, FDR was so guarded and opaque that he did not leave us definite answers about many of his most vital inner thoughts, from personal subjects like his complicated marriage to Eleanor, to public ones like his discovery of and reaction to what we now know as the Holocaust.

Clare McHugh

is the founding editor of the men's magazine Maxim, and is now an editor at large at Time Inc. She has served as editor-in-chief of New Woman and executive editor of Marie Claire.

The autobiography of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, notoriously private about her private life, would make fascinating reading, although it is hard to picture her pushing aside that perfect facade and really dishing about JFK, RFK and Ari.

Peter Jennings

is the anchor for ABC News. He is co-author of In Search of America, just published by Hyperion.

I would love to read the autobiography of the man the New Testament calls Paul of Tarsus. I have just finished a documentary on St. Paul's life and still have many questions. After the incident on the road to Damascus, Paul went from a persecutor of Jews to the man many scholars believe is largely responsible for inventing Christianity. In Paul's letters, he sometimes comes across as a ranting egomaniac. In other places, his writing about love and faith are sublime. So maybe he could help answer the question: Was Christianity invented by an insightful genius -- or a man with a fevered imagination?

Joan Mellen

is author of 15 books, including biography, criticism and fiction. She teaches in the graduate program in creative writing at Temple University in Philadelphia. She is completing a biography of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison.

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