I recently acquired a copy of the paperback edition of Richard L. Bushman's On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary (Greg Kofford Books, 2007), and I plan to put up several posts as I read through it. Here are a few quotes (in italics) from the six-page Introduction, along with my comments.
I thought about a Joseph Smith biography while still in graduate school in Harvard almost fifty years ago (p. 1). I wonder how many writers, authors, or scholars ever manage to come back, toward the end of their career, to pick up the projects they dreamed of when they were grad students?
I did not engage Mormon history until the 1970s when Leonard Arrington invited me to write a book about Joseph Smith's early life as the first volume in his projected sixteen-volume history of the Church (p. 1). Which shows what an effective force Arrington was, and what a shame that his planned history series got derailed. Bushman's volume did get published separately as Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (1984).
I got started at the Huntington [in 1997] and worked away pretty steadily for seven years (p. 3). Well, RSR is a long book, but even for a recognized author who works with a major publishing house, it is apparent that writing a book can be a long and lonely task. Seven years. Maybe this is why authors sometimes end up throwing their manuscript in the fire.
[A] friend in New York ... suggested that I keep a running commentary on my experiences as Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling came off the press later in the fall [of 2005]. ... In July 2005, I began making diary entries about the flow of events (p. 6). The result is On the Road with Joseph Smith: an author narrating himself watching his book get published, read, and reviewed. For some reason it makes me think of the documentary Derrida (2002), another interesting reflexive project.