PositiveTimes Literary Supplement (UK)Bailey is a worker ... Here is his monumental and engrossing book, almost 900 pages. His subtitle – the biography – asserts that it is definitive ... Bailey brings new information and a fresh perspective, although taking on the biography of a controversial colossus like Philip Roth had many hazards ... Bailey’s biography is both tender and detached. He gives all the facts and details, and most of the names. He doesn’t try to justify what is obsessive, overbearing and selfish in Roth. And overall he doesn’t moralize, he withholds judgement, and he doesn’t condemn. That leaves lots of room for readers to form their own conclusions, as well as space for others to weigh in on Roth’s self-promotion, sexism and general arrogance ... Bailey ends with an epilogue but not a conclusion. How could he summarize the irreconcilable contradictions of Roth’s life? Yet I’m disappointed not to have his opinions on some big questions. How did Roth’s Spartan choices serve him as an artist and a man? Was he a misogynist, a woman-hater? ... Is Bailey’s compassionate and comprehensive book the biography? No other biographer will have known Roth so well, had such unlimited access to his archives, had a chance to ask him rude questions, even to watch him as he lay dying. Future books will be readings of the life, interpretations, arguments. So nu? He’s big enough. Bring them on.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewAnyone who has read these radiant novels, I think, will be interested in reading Jack Boughton’s own narrative, and seeing how and why he has changed ... I am looking forward to a fifth volume that will fill in their saga, and I hope it will be called Della.
MixedThe Washington Post... massively researched, elegantly written and admirably balanced ... True, [Moore\'s] minutely detailed account of Tory politics, with its Jacobean skirmishes and fraught cabinet reshuffles, will probably mean little to most American readers. And Moore introduces every British man (and woman) he names by noting their education, often Eton and Balliol College, Oxford...Like Thatcher, it can seem a bit stuffy and remote ... To be sure, Moore is aware of the sexism and overt misogyny Thatcher suffered throughout her career...Yet Moore himself too often casts her in a stereotypically feminine, besotted role, calling her \'girlishly effusive about Reagan\' and as awkward when she met with his successor, George Bush, as \'a girl on a new date after many happy years with her previous boyfriend.\' He tends to underestimate her self-confidence and exaggerate her dependence on her male courtiers. In his epilogue, he calls her \'an icon, without rival, of female leadership\' but not, despite the controversies, a model of political leadership in general.
RaveThe Philadelphia InquirerMoore’s massively researched, elegantly written, and admirably balanced book, covering the years from [Thatcher\'s] triumphant reelection in June 1987 to her fall, decline and death in 2013, does justice to her courage and complexity. True, his minutely detailed account of Tory politics, with its Jacobean skirmishes and fraught cabinet reshuffles, will probably mean little to most American readers ... In the brawling pandemonium of Washington and Brexit, I hope Thatcher’s gifts of discipline, intelligence, and dedication may finally be recognized beyond the bounds of gender.
RaveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Many people had asked her what these literary giants were really like. This book was to be the answer, and you do get an intimate close-up of two legendary Parisian writers, plus their friends and relations, over the two decades she spent researching, interviewing and writing about them. But Parisian Lives is more than a guidebook for literary tourists or would-be biographers. It is a scalding revenge on the gatekeepers Bair had to confront in order to write the book ... That confident woman is the narrator but not the subject of this memoir. Bair called on all her professional skill to bring her younger self back to life. Even after all her accomplishments and honours, she still felt the bitterness of that young woman and the hot rage of that wronged scholar, and that is the main reason Parisian Lives is so gripping. Sometimes it’s the thrill of the car crash, but mostly the triumph over the Becketteering boys in the back room.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Love is a disarmingly compact, unpompous book, less in love with the sound of its own metaphors than Morrison\'s last novel, Paradise (1998), and full of quirky, perverse characters and provocative, unfashionable ideas ... On to this relatively familiar setting, Morrison layers a lurid and intricate family history, and braids the cultural background with stories of love and hate in a narrative style influenced by García Márquez and Faulkner ... Morrison\'s imaginative range of identification is narrower by choice; although she would no doubt argue - and rightly - that African-American characters can speak for all humanity. But in Love, they do not; they are stubbornly bound by their own culture; and thus, while Love is certainly an accomplished novel, its perfection comes from its limitation.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Nesbit was a startlingly racy, contradictory, emblematic figure of her time. She belonged to a late nineteenth-century cohort of advanced women – aesthetic women, bohemian women, Fabian women and New Women ... Fitzsimons’s book, which is about 150 pages longer than Galvin’s, has been enthusiastically reviewed in the UK and published in the US, where Nesbit is largely unknown ... Fitzsimons provides a very readable and thoroughly documented narrative of Nesbit’s life, social circle and literary afterlife, but offers few of her own interpretations of Nesbit’s behaviour ... Indeed, there’s so much drama and mystery in Nesbit’s life that two biographies at a time seem barely enough. Can we have a television series and a biopic?
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement...engrossing, unsettling ... In 2013, when Moser signed up to write Sontag’s authorized biography, he took on a hazardous task: how to recount the eventful life, influential ideas and significant achievements of a legendary public intellectual, and assess the overall legacy of an outrageous, infuriating great person? ... Moser has had the confidence and erudition to bring all these contradictory aspects together in a biography fully commensurate with the scale of his subject. He is also a gifted, compassionate writer ... His narrative is selective, and he is wholly on Sontag’s side; but he never backs away from making negative, even lacerating, judgements on specific aspects of her writing, politics, ideas, relationships and behaviour. That openness wins the reader’s trust, but also leaves room for dialogue and disagreement ...Moser suggests several less-than-convincing explanations for her insensitivity. She had some of the traits of an adult daughter of alcoholics; she had symptoms of amphetamine addiction; she suffered from various emotional side effects of gay self-hatred ... interview by interview, anecdote by anecdote, chapter by chapter, I had the distressing sense of the flawed but passionate woman of genius fading away and a genderless disappointing great person taking her place.
F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Eds. Cathy W. Barks and Jackson R. Bryer
PanThe Guardian...the selection from the Fitzgeralds\' correspondence edited by Jackson Bryers and Cathy Barks, and pre-emptively called \'love letters,\' repeats the legend of a great and timeless romance ... But...their relationship can no longer be regarded as a great love story. Instead, it demonstrates the terrible danger of such romantic fairytales, and the melancholy dangers of a culture, like that of the American South or the Lost Generation, that sacrifices the present to the imagined glories of the past.
MixedThe New York Times Book Review...[an] inventive, stimulating book ... It seems indisputable that Bernhardt anticipated many of the strategies of celebrity self-promotion, and Marcus is a brilliant theorist and analyst of theater history. But equating celebrity with the stage actor, and generalizing about public influence from the memorabilia of 19th-century devotees, can’t account for the contemporary cultural situation. The drama of celebrity goes far beyond the dwindling niche market of theater ... A celebrity today is as likely to be Stormy Daniels or Sarah Sanders as Sarah Bernhardt.
PositiveThe New RepublicShaping her narrative like a novel, Marshall brings the reader as close as possible to Fuller’s inner life and conveys the inspirational power she has achieved for several generations of women ... For the first five sections, [Collins\'s] effort to write about Fuller \'from the inside\' is brilliantly successful ... in dealing with the eventful final five years of Fuller’s life—her years in Europe and her fatal journey back home—Marshall identifies so closely with her subject that critical distance disappears; and these years present the most difficult biographical issues ... Even if Marshall’s life of Fuller is not new in its facts, it is eloquent and welcome. But I think that biographers have done all they can for Margaret Fuller.
Heath Hardage Lee
RaveThe Washington PostDramatically told by Heath Hardage Lee, The League of Wives reveals a story as exhilarating and inspiring as its predecessors ... Lee combines a concise narrative of the war with close-ups of several leaders of the women ... Most of the wives successfully managed the transition back into their domestic roles, and their story faded away. But Lee has brought it back to light [.]
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewWeber, a professor of French and comparative literature at Barnard College, is an erudite literary historian as well as a fashion connoisseur, and she spent years of archival research amassing the sumptuous details, apt and amusing illustrations, lengthy endnotes, huge bibliography and three appendixes of this engrossing story. She describes not only the three women, but an enormous cast of the dandies, decadents, artists, writers, musicians and financiers of the fin de siècle. Clearly Weber loves this period; while the book is long and weighty, it is never dull. Still, I wish she had gone even longer through the Dreyfus affair, which marked a tragic turn in what she calls \'a soon-to-be-extinct society\' ... Maybe you’ll be tempted to give Proust another go when you read about them all. In any case, Weber has succeeded much as he did in bringing that lost time back to glorious life.
PositiveThe Washington PostIn the two essays that make up her new book, Women & Power, she shows first, how women have been silenced in public life as far back as the Greeks and the Romans, and second, how ancient images of female monstrosity from Clytemnestra to Medusa have been endlessly recycled to undermine women’s access to political power ... Beard herself is a practiced speaker and writer, who deploys an accessible language with intelligence, wit and a disarmingly personal voice ... But for all of her learning, charm, and pluck, even she is at a loss when it comes to changing the status quo ... It’s fun to read this elegant, well-illustrated book. But no manifesto, or womanifesto, no individual woman’s success, no intellectual analysis, can change the male power structure. It has to be a collective action.
RaveThe Washington PostMundy skillfully interweaves the history of the war and the evolution of modern military intelligence with the daily lives of the women who were racing to decipher the messages of the enemy, while dealing with bureaucratic rivalries, administrative sexism, romance and heartbreak on the home front ... We owe Mundy gratitude for rescuing these hidden figures from obscurity. Even more valuable is her challenge to the myth of the eccentric, inspired, solitary male genius, like Alan Turing. As Mundy demonstrates, code-breaking in World War II 'was a gigantic team effort,' and 'genius itself is often a collective phenomenon.' Codes were broken by the patient labor of groups of people 'trading pieces of things they have learned and noticed and collected.' I suspect there are more stories of hidden figures waiting to be told. But in writing this book, Mundy has broken some of the codes that kept them hidden for so long.
PanThe New RepublicIn Kelly’s view, Austen’s novels are a kind of samizdat, concealing radical messages beneath their conventional surfaces. Kelly never says, however, what she means by ‘radical’ … Her case for the radicalism of the novels rests instead on a mixture of psychological interpretation and political hypothesis—sometimes ingenious, but more often speculative and circular. She loves solving ‘word games and anagrams’ that she alone has detected in Austen’s fiction, all of which somehow turn out to support her argument … Kelly’s claim to have read each of the six novels ‘as Jane intended us to’ is a bold one, but it’s undermined by her own writing and perspective. She describes Austen as ‘an authoress,’ an antiquated feminine form that, like ‘poetess,’ serves to trivialize Austen as a woman writer.
Mary V. Dearborn
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewDearborn delved into the Hemingway family archives in Texas, and she gives rewarding attention to her subject’s relationships with his father, his five siblings and especially his mother ... Dearborn is incisive about the ways each wife handled the difficult bargain she had made in marrying a legend ... Dearborn skillfully covers an enormous range of rich material; she is an indefatigable researcher. But I’m not an indefatigable reader, and her insistence on using every minute detail slows the momentum of Hemingway’s story ... Ultimately, the scale of Hemingway’s life is so colossal and his motives so convoluted that no biographer, however gifted, can neatly sever the legend from the life, or have the last word on its meaning.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
RaveThe New Republic...[an] excellent book that reconcile the two Ruths, by telling the story of her inspiring life and her towering career ... The selection showcases her astonishing intellectual range.
Blanche Wiesen Cook
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewKeeping the focus on her actions and reactions, Cook skillfully narrates the epic history of the war years ... It’s a tribute to Cook’s rich portrait that after three enormous volumes, I still wanted to know more. The ironies of Eleanor’s death make her life even more poignant and moving; their omission leaves her as a timeless and legendary figure
RaveThe Washington PostRuth Franklin’s sympathetic and masterful biography both uncovers Jackson’s secret and haunting life and repositions her as a major artist ... the genius of Shirley Jackson [is] revived and revealed in this fine biography.
PositiveThe GuardianThe graphic, funny, tender and shocking stories in New York psychiatrist Arlene Heyman’s debut collection are aptly titled. They are scary, because they deal with genocide, the events of 9/11, ageing, terminal sickness, caretaking, and death; 'old' because most of the characters are between the ages of 65 and 99; sex-centered, because several stories feature aging spouses in bed together, taking their medications, using their lubricants, employing various aphrodisiacs, and wives thinking longingly about their former husbands.
RaveThe Washington PostMoore is certainly on Thatcher’s side. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he had a distinguished career in the Conservative media as the editor of the Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph. But he is both sympathetic and balanced, never a sycophant.
MixedThe GuardianVanessa, it must be said, is not as sympathetic or lovable a narrator as the young Isadora. She is narcissistically obsessed with ageing ... Nevertheless, Vanessa/Jong gradually won me over with her honesty, humour and passion. By the middle of the book, as even Belinda Barkowitz passes away, the quest for sex fades into the background, and questions of mortality and generativity come to the fore.