The best seven-word autobiographies

by Toby Manhire / 28 July, 2013
And some very good six-word memoirs, too.
Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central.

For the last eight years, the New York Public Library has been collecting short autobiographies from visiting artists and writers.

Very short. Seven words short.

At the always excellent Brain Pickings blog, Maria Popova compiles the best of the lot.

Novelist Tom Wolfe offers, “Ace daddy, gym rat, Balzolan reporter, PhD.”

From novelist William Gibson: “Postwar. Cold War. Stop the War. Later.”

John Irving: “Imagined missing father; wrestled, wrote, fathered children.”

Joan Didion is defiant: “Seven words do not yet define me.”

And musician David Byrne goes overboard: “Unfinished, unprocessed, uncertain, unknown, unadorned, underarms, underpants, unfrozen, unsettled, unfussy.”

A few years ago the online magazine Smith conducted a similar exercise, in their case gathering “six-word memoirs”. Put it down to inflation.

Some of their best – which ended up collected in a book - came from readers, but there were also some good efforts from famous names.

Such as author Dave Eggers: “Fifteen years since last professional haircut”.

Singer Aimee Mann: “Couldn't cope so I wrote songs”.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales: “Yes, you can edit this biography.”

And comedic talk-show host Stephen Colbert: “Well, I thought it was funny.”



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