Stacy Schiff - Quotes

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Here you have an incredibly ambitious, accomplished woman who comes up against some of the same problems that women in power come up against today. Cleopatra plays an oddly pivotal role in world history as well; in her lifetime, Alexandria is the center of the universe, Rome is still a backwater. ---->>>

Cleopatra was on a political mission to save her country and her power, but what we remember about her are these two famed seductions, which are a matter of politics, not a matter of love. ---->>>

For the several thousands of years before they became firefighters and physicians, women were sirens, enchantresses, snares. At times it seems as if female powerlessness is male self-preservation in disguise. And for millennia, this has made for a zero-sum game: A woman's intelligence was a man's deception.

For the several thousands of years before they became firefighters and physicians, women were sirens, enchantresses, snares. At times it seems as if female powerlessness is male self-preservation in disguise. And for millennia, this has made for a zero-sum game: A woman's intelligence was a man's deception.

We're talking about, essentially, the Roman historians, who wrote Cleopatra into the story mostly so that they could talk about the rise of Rome. And that is one of the problems, of course, in recounting her life. She's only ever apparent to us when there is a Roman in the room, or when her story intersects with the rise of Rome. ---->>>

What we know about Cleopatra's looks is based purely on her coin portraits. Engraving was imperfect, and that when you are a ruler and you ask for a coin to be engraved with your likeness on it, you are probably trying to project a certain air of authority. ---->>>

Life-writing calls for any number of dubious gifts: A touch of O.C.D., a lack of imagination, a large desk, neutrality of Swiss proportions, tactlessness, a high tolerance for archival dust. Most of all it calls for an act of displacement. 'To find your subject, you must in some sense lose yourself along the way,' is Richard Holmes's version.

Life-writing calls for any number of dubious gifts: A touch of O.C.D., a lack of imagination, a large desk, neutrality of Swiss proportions, tactlessness, a high tolerance for archival dust. Most of all it calls for an act of displacement. 'To find your subject, you must in some sense lose yourself along the way,' is Richard Holmes's version.

In 'Plutarch,' her voice begins to come out; there are actual 2,000-year-old quotes from Cleopatra, and they are sly and saucy. ---->>>

By the time Florence Nightingale got her neurotic hands on Cleopatra, she had been mangled beyond recognition by both history and literature. ---->>>

I wouldn't dare to speculate as to Cleopatra's falling in love. Her relationships are too convenient for that. ---->>>

No one in the modern world controls the wealth or territory that Cleopatra did. ---->>>

Women enjoyed rights in Egypt they would not again enjoy for more than 2,000 years. They owned ships, ran vineyards, filed lawsuits, practiced medicine. Their husbands supported them after divorce. Their power was unprecedented. ---->>>

My next book is on the Salem witch trials. As a small-town Massachusetts girl, this makes me very happy. So does the reunion with documents! ---->>>

Certainly, I am writing as a 21st-century woman, so I am much more inclined to view her as a three-dimensional woman. I think we keep coming up with this stubborn problem of a woman being judged by her appearance rather than her accomplishments. We are much more inclined to ask: was Cleopatra beautiful? ---->>>

For a few thousand years, women had no history. Marriage was our calling, and meekness our virtue. Over the last century, in stuttering succession, we have gained a voice, a vote, a room, a playing field of our own. Decorously or defiantly, we now approach what surely qualifies as the final frontier. ---->>>

Nonfiction writers are the packhorses of literature. We're meant to carry the story. If we can make it up and down the mountain by a reliable if not scenic route, we have delivered. Technique is optional. ---->>>

Reality does not easily give up meaning; it's the biographer's job to clobber it into submission. You're meant not only to tame it but to extract substance, to identify cause and axiomatic effect. You subsist on the tactical omissions, the hollow words, the oddly unconnected dots. ---->>>

I can't write a line without music - it provides just the right amount of distraction to keep me focused. Clearly, I still miss the noisy roommates.

I can't write a line without music - it provides just the right amount of distraction to keep me focused. Clearly, I still miss the noisy roommates.

The desk thing is a problem for me. The ideal one would be vast and perfectly clear. Yet the bane of the biographical existence is paper; if you're 'an artist under oath' you're writing from a mountain of documentation. ---->>>

You have to scuba dive in the Alexandrian harbor if you want to see what remains of the lighthouse of Cleopatra's day, and the water in the Alexandrian harbor is not really something you want to come into contact with. ---->>>

I went out to the desert where Cleopatra camped out with her mercenary army. It's a desolate outpost. Nothing has changed since her day. You realize how far she had to travel. Not only is it a good 150 miles against the current, you can't take a ship. ---->>>

Recently a study proved that working from a larger, less cluttered computer screen increases concentration. I could have told them that. And yes, I write first drafts with a mechanical pencil and a yellow legal pad. There's good reason for this primitive behavior: I am a crackerjack typist. My hand moves far more quickly than my brain.

Recently a study proved that working from a larger, less cluttered computer screen increases concentration. I could have told them that. And yes, I write first drafts with a mechanical pencil and a yellow legal pad. There's good reason for this primitive behavior: I am a crackerjack typist. My hand moves far more quickly than my brain.

We don't know how Cleopatra spent her days, but we do know how other Hellenistic monarchs spent their days. There has been a great amount of scholarship in the last 30 years about education in the Hellenistic world and women in the Hellenistic world. We now know how an upper-class woman was educated in her day. ---->>>

I'm a sucker for lost worlds. I was nostalgic even as a child. I was happiest in my hometown library in Adams, Mass., where nothing seemed to change. ---->>>

An interesting thing about book groups, it seems to me, is that there is no correlation between a brilliant book and a brilliant discussion. The first seems sometimes even to undermine the second. ---->>>

From every ancient source, we have testimony to Cleopatra's irresistible charm, as Plutarch has it, to her ability to speak many languages including, as he puts it, the language of flattery and essentially, to be able to turn people to her will - really a great political genius, in that respect. ---->>>

In an ideal world, the perfect biographical subject would have been the star of his penmanship class at grade school - and would thereafter write an English that positively sings. ---->>>

The interesting thing about Cleopatra is that she is such a shape-shifter. I mean through history we've all molded her to our times and our places. So there's room for a movie for her, but I don't think it will hew to the book. ---->>>

When finally I mustered the courage to tell a novelist friend that I was talking to editors about a biography, her reply was, 'Oh, that's okay. That's not a real book.' ---->>>

Cleopatra had one great advantage. She lived at a time when female sovereigns were not anomalies. And when women enjoyed rights they would not again enjoy for another 2,000 years. You could call them early feminists, if I may use a dirty word. ---->>>

Strangely enough, politics may just be the one realm in which having kids imposes no penalty on women. Kids are practically a necessity. For scientists, or Supreme Court justices, or chief executives, or the woman who wants to learn to fly F-l8s off an aircraft carrier, it works differently. ---->>>

I have three children, each of whom is having an idyllic childhood, probably because I have been at the office the entire time. ---->>>

For thousands of years, men have written history, so it seems to me that most of what we've read is from the male point of view. ---->>>

Have you ever been married? Had that thing of someone calling you by a name not your own? It's unsettling. It's like a fictitious person. ---->>>

I think with every book you realize you are partway through and there is something really elementary that you should have researched. ---->>>

Insofar as there is an anxiety of influence for a biographer, it may be that each new book is undertaken in reaction to the previous book. ---->>>

No biographical subject is ever on hold with the orthodontist. If there's a dry spell, it's your job to curtail or eliminate it. ---->>>

No one sits on the stoop when she's a kid and thinks, 'I want to be a biographer when I grow up.' ---->>>

The biographer has two lives: The one she leads, and the one she ultimately understands. ---->>>

You ever try to leave New York? I did once. I lasted about a year. ---->>>

A woman can never be too rich or too thin, but until very, very recently, she could be too powerful, for which - if she wasn't smart enough to camouflage herself - she generally paid the price. ---->>>

How does a woman in authority convey that authority? Is it possible for a woman to rule without sounding shrill? Is it possible for a woman to manage without manipulating? All of these things seem to me to be very much at the fore today, and were no less the case 2,000 years ago. ---->>>

I checked to see if there'd been a really good book published in the last few decades. Then I started with what Cleopatra would have read, asking myself, 'What can we know about her education?' It turns out to be a very great deal, and bizarrely, no one had written about that before. ---->>>

I don't think there is ever objective biography. Our vision of our subject is always shaped by who we are. So I do, of course, think the biographer's view is always something to keep in mind. ---->>>

I once interviewed David Herbert Donald, the Lincoln historian, and we talked about how one deals with the secondary sources and the previous biographies. He said something which kept coming back to me as I worked on Cleopatra, which was: 'There's no further new material; there are only new questions.' ---->>>

Of course, women have long exercised influence behind the scenes. A few thousand years ago this drove Aristotle to distraction: 'What difference does it make whether women rule or the rulers are ruled by women? The result is the same.' ---->>>

Biography

Nationality: American
Born: 10-26, 1961
Birthplace:
Die:
Occupation: Author
Website:

Stacy Madeleine Schiff (born October 26, 1961) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American nonfiction author. She was formerly a guest columnist for The New York Times. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Brad Gooch has called her "perhaps the most seductive writer of nonfiction prose in America in our time (wikipedia)