- Editors' Note
With this issue, Marie-José Fassiotto completes her twentieth year as the Book Review Editor for Biography. (Her tenure as General Editor for the Reviewed Elsewhere feature will reach its twentieth year next summer.) During this time, she has ushered 520 reviews into print, and as any Book Review editor knows, this represents only a fraction of the work involved in the long process that ends in a published review.
A quick look at how those reviews are spread out over the years suggests something about her contribution to this journal, and to the field of life writing in general. During her first seven years as Book Review Editor, Biography published a little over 100 reviews—roughly 15 a year. Between 2001 and 2005, we published 217—roughly 43 a year. The word exponential comes to mind, and the same term applies to the amount of related correspondence —requesting, encouraging, reminding, cajoling, insisting, thanking.
In 1994, when Craig Howes became editor of Biography, and Stan Schab became its managing editor, Marie José offered to resign. "If I don't fit with your plans, I'm happy to go," she said. There were in fact new plans—to make a concerted effort to get review copies the minute the publications were announced, and to review as many of the critical and theoretical works appearing on life writing as possible, in keeping with Biography's goal to serve as a forum journal for the entire field. But having Marie-José oversee this substantially expanded feature of the journal was part of the plans as well. And nothing could have worked better.
From a distance, the working relationship could seem rather odd. Marie-José is a Professor of French at this university. And yet, though the Center for Biographical Research is next door to the Department of Languages and Literatures of Europe and the Americas on campus, the general editors and the book review editor almost never consult. Throughout the year, the books arrive, Marie José comes to the Center, we say hello, and the books disappear. She brings back packages addressed to all over the world, we mail them out, and some time later, completed reviews come in by e-mail or post.
When we open up these documents, the variety of reviewers never fails to amaze us. They are senior professors from elite institutions, doctoral students in the midst of their dissertation work, authors outside of academia, and almost every other possible profile. The only thing they share is an expertise on the subject of the book they've been asked to review. Unlike many journals, [End Page iii] we have never had to put out a call for reviewers, because Marie-José not only finds them, but finds the right ones.
This talent, coupled with an admirable efficiency and steadiness, has been largely responsible for the emergence of our Review section as the most detailed and comprehensive source available in the field for responses to new publications. Especially when Reviewed Elsewhere is also taken into account —Marie-José's responsibility as well—we sometimes feel that the title Life Writing Review would actually reflect our journal's content more accurately. It is a simple fact that over half of the typical issue of Biography arises from her editorial efforts.
We dedicate this issue to Marie-José Fassiotto. May she continue to make her valuable contributions to this journal, and to the field of life writing, for another twenty years—but only if she's happy to stay.