Contributing editors Nell Altizer, Patricia Angley, Alana Bell, Michael Fassiotto, John W. I. Lee, Gabriel Merle, Barbara Bennett Peterson, Yvonne Ward, and Valeria Wenderoth provided the excerpts for this issue.
Publications reviewed include the The Age, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, L'Espresso, (Toronto) Globe and Mail, Le Monde des Livres, Le Nouvel Observateur, New York Review of Books (NYRB), New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), Pacific Historical Review, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Repubblica, Washington Post National Weekly Edition (WP), and Women's Review of Books.
"This book runs to nearly a thousand pages, including 116 pages of notes (many of them substantial). . . . Kingsley Amis fully deserves a biography on this scale, and in Zachary Leader the subject has found a worthy biographer. . . . Reading this book one is at various points surprised, amused, fascinated and shocked, but one closes it at the end with a satisfying sense of having got to know the whole man, and impressed by the ruthless honesty with which he explored and confronted the less amiable aspects of his own character in his imaginative writing. . . . I wrote in an obituary of him that his skepticism was in its way as fundamental as Samuel Beckett's, but cushioned and concealed by the conventions of the well-made novel. I stick to that comparison, much as it would have surprised and annoyed Kingsley Amis."
David Lodge. NYRB, May 31, 2007: 43–45.
"Indeed, 'The Life of Kingsley Amis,' like most biographies of living or recently dead writers, inverts the probable terms of its subject's posthumous survival even as it provides an easy reference for curious readers in the future. Written in the twilight of Amis's celebrity, the book is tasteful catnip for high-minded voyeurs—the present writer included—who take pleasure in contemplating the sexual and medical histories of people they have never met, and in overhearing table talk at dinner parties to which they would never have been invited. This has its charms, but the serious fun lies elsewhere, in the novels that should be, for American readers, much nearer to hand than they are."
A. O. Ascott. NYTBR, June 3, 2007: 36–37.
"In 'The Last Mrs. Astor,' Kiernan acquaints readers with Mrs. Astor's long, [End Page 412] rich back story, soft-pedaling her subject's flaws but taking care not to exaggerate her stature. While praising Mrs. Astor for being 'attractive, gay, fun to be with, and a great flirt,' Kiernan assesses her philanthropic contributions more cautiously. 'How much good Brooke Astor ultimately did, there is no telling,' she ventures, hedging: 'A drop in the bucket is a drop nonetheless.'"
Liesl Schillinger. NYTBR, June 17, 2007: 20.
A biography of Vera Atkins, "who served in the British Special Operations Executive, responsible for sabotage and aid to resistance movements in occupied Europe. . . . Spymistress, subtitled in part The Greatest Female Secret Agent of World War Two, is a farrago from beginning to end. It begins with a scenario in which a young Boy Scout riding his bicycle through the Blitz in London carries messages to a woman with a beguiling bosom. The young Boy Scout is William Stevenson; the bosom belongs to Vera Atkins. The book goes downhill from there."
Wesley Wark. Globe and Mail, Apr. 21, 2007: D6.
Balzac, Honoré de
Balzac's correspondence shows a writer haunted, harassed, obsessed by his creation. And yet, if the work is central, it is not considered as sacred: the man who wrote the Comédie Humaine is larger than it. The letters show...