- Reviewed Elsewhere
Contributing reviewers Nell Altizer, Patricia Angley, Alana Bell, Janet Butler, Judith Lütge Coullie, Lars Fischer, Marie-Christine Garneau, Théo Garneau, Douglas Hilt, Gabriel Merle, Dawn Morais, Barbara Bennett Peterson, Forrest R. Pitts, and Yvonne Ward supplied the excerpts for this issue.
Publications reviewed include Ad Parnassum, The Age, American Quarterly, American Scientist, Australian Book Review, Far Eastern Economic Review, Folk Music Journal, Fontes Artis Musicae, French Review, French Studies, (Toronto) Globe and Mail, Guardian Weekly, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of the Society for American Music, Journal of World History, Le Monde des Livres, music & letters, Die Musikforschung, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books (NYRB), New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Le Nouvel Observateur, Opera News, Österreichische Musikzeitschrift, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Science, Studi Francesi, Washington Post National Weekly Edition (WP), Women’s Review of Books, and Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte; and from South Africa, the African Book Publishing Record, Die Burger, Business Day, The Citizen, English Academy Review, Itch, Litnet, New Contrast, Surfpix Photo, Sowetan, The Telegraph, The Times, and The Witness.
Alexandre Ier. Marie-Pierre Rey. Paris: Flammarion, “Grandes Biographies,” 2009. 592 pp. Euro27.
Alexander the First’s historical role is well known: he vanquished Napoleon. Much less known is his personality. “Wit, grace, education, seduction, but also deceit” (said Napoleon). With such a disconcerting character, the problem for the biographer is to navigate between two pitfalls: the overcomplacent and the oversevere portraits. Marie-Pierre Rey is a good sailor. She shows a man alternately noble and unmethodical, intelligent and ineffectual, who yields to the prevailing obscurantism, and is finally rather pathetic with his ambiguities and his irresoluteness. One recollects Henri Troyat’s flamboyant writing. Here obviously the generalist eclipses the academician.
Steven Englund. Le Monde des Livres, Mar. 3, 2009: 7.
General Ashcroft: Attorney at War. Nancy V. Baker. Lawrence: UP of Kansas, 2006. 322 pp. $34.95.
“According to Baker, the 9/11 attacks had a profound impact on the Justice [End Page 383] Department as a whole, and on the Attorney General’s Office in particular. Specifically, the event transformed Ashcroft from a listless, somewhat bored bureaucrat into a ‘chief warrior in the domestic war on terror’ (p. 49), acting from a position of unquestioned strength and authority. . . . She depicts him as serving as a ‘lightning rod’ for the administration’s initiatives . . . [who] ‘enabled the administration to expand executive power without triggering a political or institutional backlash, aiding the president in his dealings with Congress, the press and the public by drawing political lightning away from the Oval Office’ (p. 49).”
David A. Yalof. Presidential Studies Quarterly 39.1 (Mar. 2009): 161–63.
Fred Astaire. Joseph Epstein. New Haven: Yale UP, 2008. 191 pp. $26.75.
“In the bibliographical note that concludes the book, Epstein writes, ‘The amount of penetrating writing about Fred Astaire is less than overwhelming . . . most of the straight biographical literature on Astaire does not rise much above the level of fan magazines.’ This book does. Nicely paced, almost scientifically analytical in explaining why Astaire became a legend while others merely became movie stars, and filled with illuminating asides and unexpected wisecracks, Fred Astaire manages to draw a direct line from Denis Diderot to Alexis de Tocqueville to Marcel Proust to Fred Astaire. My top hat’s off to this guy.”
Joe Queenan. Globe and Mail, Jan. 10, 2009: F10.
The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece. Eric Siblin. Toronto: Anansi, 2009. 319 pp. $29.95.
Siblin “sets out to show that Johann Sebastian Bach was not some boring old fuddy-duddy in a ridiculous wig, but a truly wonderful composer whose music still speaks to us across the ages. . . . The book chronicles the convoluted history of Bach’s six cello suites, masterpieces that were forgotten until the mighty Catalan cellist Pablo Casals pulled them out of the dustbin of history early last century. . . . The material about Casals . . . is more interesting and more affecting...