Friday, October 19, 2007

The Joys of Biography

A couple of years ago, one of my co-workers "loaned" me the biography, Fawn McKay Brodie: a Biographer's Life by Newell G. Bringhurst. In preparation for retirement, I've been bringing my personal books home from the office, and I dropped the biography in my book bag.

Day before yesterday, I picked it out of my book bag and started reading it on the train. I haven't been able to put it down since, reading it at every opportunity. I love when a book gets a hold on me. I'm enjoying this book.

It's full of names and incidents that evoke a place and time in my own life. I'm always surprised how strong a hold the Mormon church has on my psyche. Bringhurst's biography of Brodie examines the ambivalent but central role that the church played in Brodie's life.

Brodie, for those who don't know, wrote a controversial biography in the 1940s of Joseph Smith, the first prophet of the Mormon church. Within a year of the book's publication, she was excommunicated. Bringhurst's biography covers all of this but reveals a complex, sensitive, and sometimes conflicted biographer who had her own flaws and her own history (just ask Hugh Nibley).

So I'm enjoying this read. I'm remembering my own struggles in the church, and out. And I do intend to return the book to my friend at work.