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Biography 28.3 (2005) 452-512
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Contributing editors Nell Altizer, Pat Angley, Alana Bell, Judith Coullie, Helke Drier, Michael Fassiotto, Noel Kent, Gabriel Merle, Dawn Morais, Barbara Bennett Peterson, and Valeria Wenderoth provided the excerpts for this issue.
Publications reviewed include L' Espresso, Far Eastern Economic Review, Gay and Lesbian Review, The Globe and Mail, Historische Anthropologie, Historische Zeitschrift, Das Historisch-Politische Buch, Library Review, London Review of Books, Le Mondes des Livres, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books (NYRB), New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), Le Nouvel Observateur, Pacific Historical Review, Presidential Studies Quarterly, La Republica, Times Literary Supplement (TLS), Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft, and from South Africa, The African Book Publishing Record, African Review of Books, AllAfrica, Artsmart, Beeld, The Book Door, Cape Argus, Cape Times, Fairlady, The Herald, Mail and Guardian, Pretoria News, Samubora, Sowetan, The Star: Tonight, SubstanceBooks, Sunday Dispatch, Sunday Independent, Sunday Sun, Sunday Times: Lifestyle, The Witness, and The Writer.
Andersen, Hans Christian
"Jens Andersen's clogged, but sympathetic biography, shows that the story was in fact as ambiguous, and often as bleak, as his unsettling fiction."
Drawing attention to the personality and above all to the considerable work (mainly in the fields of law and religion) of that unjustly forgotten Roman Emperor (previous biography of him in French: 1888), Bernard Rémy has written a rich book, well-constructed and well-written.
Bach, Johann Sebastian
"A shilling will give you all the facts, wrote Auden . . . but when it comes [End Page 452] to Johann Sebastian Bach what you get for twenty-two dollars in the Cambridge Musical Lives Series is a tissue of excellent speculation. Like Shakespeare—and many have made the comparison, including the composer's latest biographer, Peter Williams—Bach suffers from underdocumentation. . . . Underdocumentation is almost a leitmotif in Williams's Life of Bach, which makes as best a virtue as it can out of biographical contingency as a necessary condition for its existence. The sources are particularly chary of personal indications—what Bach was like, why he did what he did—and the crowd of references to him in the years after his death that fill out the [New] Bach Reader [ed. Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel, Norton, 1998] are, for Williams, deeply questionable."
"Balanchine had the extraordinary ability during his lifetime, and now in death, to elicit from his appreciators a possessive ardor worthy of a jealous lover. . . . Though I am personally thrilled that Teachout experienced his Balanchine awakening, and while his brief tell of Balanchine's life is correct in most particulars . . . his former ignorance of Balanchine's fifty-year venture surfaces periodically, most especially in his glib assessment of Lincoln Kirstein. . . . Robert Gottlieb's George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker is the superior book, though the telling is somewhat dry and there is nothing new here. But it is useful to have all the famous Balanchine stories and quotes gathered into one handy little volume. . . . Gottlieb has the facts correct, and he manages to convey a general sense of the profound importance of and delight about Balanchine's achievement."
"Since [Bankhead's] death [in 1968], there have been seven biographies. Her latest chronicler, Joel Lobenthal, doesn't really make her come...