In our defense, this morning’s piece on David Carr didn’t technically assert that no one had ever written a reported memoir before. Good thing, too, because the late Katharine Graham totally did it more than 15 years ago and won a Pulitzer prize for it! We know this now thanks to Chicago-based author Carol Felsenthal, who brought it to our attention in a comment she left on our Carr story.
Ms. Felsenthal started reporting her unauthorized biography of Graham in the early ’90s, while Graham herself was working on the memoir that would become 1998’s Personal History. According to Ms. Felsenthal, many of the people she interviewed for her book—Power, Privilege and the Post: The Katharine Graham Story, published by Putnam in 1993—said that Ms. Graham had recently stopped by to do the very same thing.
Ms. Felsenthal’s interview subjects—folks like Time magazine bigwig Richard Clurman, Washington Post exec Mark Meagher, and Newsweek editor Lester Bernstein—told her that Ms. Graham had come to them with a full crew of research assistants and asked them questions about her life.
Based on what they told her, Ms. Felsenthal concluded that “it was as if she were not confident of getting the facts of her own life right, as if she did not trust her memory or her interpretation, or her insights.”
Ms. Felsenthal, whose most recent book, Clinton in Exile, is about Bill Clinton’s life after the presidency, said in an interview this afternoon: “I knew I was talking to the right people because they were also people that Kay Graham was also interviewing about her own life.”