We published dozens of Brilliant Careers profiles this year -- they appear every week on Tuesday -- but the following 12 nicely represent the eclectic mix that makes the series such rich, lively reading.
The individuals profiled in these pieces are not simply fascinating in their own right; they are living illustrations of modern culture at its most complicated and compelling and, in some cases, maddening, perplexing and mysterious.
Yet as interesting as the subjects are, it's the writing that brings readers to Brilliant Careers week after week, and you get an extraordinary sampling of it in this group of profiles. These are writers who are passionate about their subject -- alert to the pivotal event, the telling detail, and with a keen ear for the pithy, revealing remark. Their interest is not in idealizing the people they write about but in conveying subjective truth as well as facts -- which is how the best portraits, whether made with words, paint or film, have always come about.
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David Bowie As the master of self-reinvention -- from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke to Normal David -- he became the most influential rock star of the post-Beatles era.
By Greg Villepique
William Wegman His wry, wildly popular photography owes a great debt to the gifted performance artists he works with.
By Kevin Conley
Evan S. Connell By flipping the known world on its head, the relentlessly contrarian author of "Son of the Morning Star" and "Deus Lo Volt!" has become that rarest of writers: Dangerous.
By Greg Bottoms
Dolly Parton The artist with one of the greatest country voices of all time says that throughout her life she has been driven by three passions: God, music and sex.
By Stephanie Zacharek
Molly Ivins Balancing humor and passion, the proudly partisan Texas pundit elevates a profession dominated by mediocrity and received ideas.
By David Rubien
Janet Malcolm In her relentless pursuit of the truth she's left a few bodies in her wake, but isn't that part of a journalist's job?
By Craig Seligman
Christo He's the world's greatest wrap star; his grand and beautiful public projects transcend the barriers between life and art.
By Charles Taylor
Lou Reed The Velvet Underground founder gave us heroin, the exalted transvestite and euphoric nastiness. Who knew salvation could sound so good?
By Chris Colin
John McEnroe His combination of talent and temperament worked hand in hand, exploding on the court and turning tennis into performance art.
By Larry Platt
Daniel Clowes With a new graphic novel out and a movie on the way, the author of "David Boring," "Ghost World" and "Eightball" talks about writing stories, making movies and what it's like being him.
By Carina Chocano
Van Morrison The Irish singer-songwriter has identified himself with poets from Blake to Yeats, and like those "poetic champions," he has searched for the right words, the right feeling, as if for the Holy Grail.
By Sean Elder
Jerry Wexler The great Atlantic Records producer gave us rhythm and blues -- as well as just about every R&B legend -- and retooled the very foundations of music producing.
By Alex Halberstadt
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To read more Salon People profiles, visit the Brilliant Careers archive, which contains all the features that have been published since the Brilliant Careers series began in November 1998.