Sep 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

The New Yorker's Evan Osnos on how his Biden biography came together

Mike Allen
Biden book.
Cover: Simon & Schuster

The New Yorker's Evan Osnos will be out Oct. 27 (maybe sooner for preorders) with "Joe Biden," drawing on big profiles Evan wrote in 2014 and last month + shorter online pieces, all in this inviting frame from the prologue:

The circumstances of a life in full and a country in peril conspired to put Joe Biden at the center of an American reckoning ...
At the very moment that his country was lying spread-eagled before the eyes of the world, Biden had arrived at his season of history.

I asked Evan — a perceptive, mischievous writer — how it came together:

I first wrote about him when he visited Beijing in 2011. ... Biden made a point to eat at a local working-class restaurant near my house, throwing shade at Chinese leaders who were dealing with scandals about official privilege and corruption. As soon as Biden left town, Xi Jinping scrambled to go to a local dumpling place to show he was a man of the people.
That episode really piqued my interest, because Biden took an unusually personal approach to foreign affairs, as he does to domestic politics; he's always talking about trying to hear how the other side really thinks, not out of some gauzy belief that he can charm them, but out of a pragmatic desire to calculate their interests.

Osnos says he kept returning to Biden "simply because of the range and intensity of his experiences. I interviewed him four times between April 2014 and July 2020 — on Air Force Two, in the White House, and at his home during the pandemic."

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