Friday, April 26, 2013

Roundup: Biography Reviews

Copies of classical Roman busts, the
Scottish National Gallery.  Photo by
Randall Stephens.
Susan Ware, "The challenges and rewards of biographical essays," OUPblog, April 11, 2013

One of the first things I did after being appointed general editor of the American National Biography was to assign myself an entry to write. I wanted to put myself in the shoes of my contributors and experience first-hand the challenge of the short biographical form.>>>

"Paul Johnson reviews 'C.S. Lewis: A Life', by Alister McGrath," Spectator, April 20, 2013

C.S. Lewis became a celebrity but remains a mysterious figure. Several biographies have been written, not to much avail, and now Alister McGrath, a professor of historical theology, has compiled a painstaking, systematic and ungrudging examination of his life and works. Despite all the trouble he has taken, his book lacks charm and does not make one warm to his subject.>>>

Jonathan Freedland, "A Man of His Time: ‘Karl Marx,’ by Jonathan Sperber," New York Times, March 29, 2013

The Karl Marx depicted in Jonathan Sperber’s absorbing, meticulously researched biography will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. Here is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain “slummy,” and who can be maddeningly inconsistent when not lapsing into elaborate flights of theory and unintelligible abstraction.>>>

Andrew Wulf, "How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore – review," Guardian, January 4, 2013

In June 1769, 21-year-old Thomas Day and his friend John Bicknell went to the Orphan Hospital in Shrewsbury to select a prepubescent girl for Day. This was not a gesture of charity to remove the girl from her destitute situation but an experiment in which Day was trying to create his "perfect wife". >>>

"First Son: The University of Chicago Press Announces the First Biography of Richard M. Daley," Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2013

On September 7, 2010 the longest-serving and most powerful mayor in the history of Chicago -- and, arguably, America -- stepped down, leaving behind a city that was utterly transformed, and a complicated legacy we are only beginning to evaluate. In First Son, Keith Koeneman brilliantly chronicles the sometimes Shakespearean, sometimes Machiavellian life of an American political legend. Making deft use of unprecedented access to key political, business, and cultural leaders, Koeneman draws on more than one hundred interviews to tell an insider story of political triumph and personal evolution. He explores Daley's connections to the national political stage, including his close work with Arne Duncan, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and others with ties to the Obama administration.>>>

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