- Reviewed Elsewhere
Contributing reviewers Nell Altizer, Patricia Angley, Alana Bell, Janet Butler, Judith Lütge Coullie, Michael Fassiotto, Michael Fisher, Marie-Christine Garneau, Theo Garneau, Gabriel Merle, and Barbara Bennett Peterson provided the excerpts for this issue.
Publications reviewed include Australian Book Review, Australia Book Review, Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Central European History, Eighteenth-Century Music, French Review, French Studies, German History, (Toronto) Globe and Mail, The Historian, History, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Le Monde des Livres, Music & Letters, Musical Times, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books (NYRB), New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), Notes and Queries, Les Nouvel Observateur, Pacific Historical Review, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Review of Rabbinic Judaism, Studi Francesi, Washington Post National Weekly Edition (WP), the Women's Review of Books, Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte; and from South Africa, Artsmart, Cape Argus, Cape Times, The Citizen, Classic Feel, Country Life, Cricket 365, IAfrica, Mail and Guardian, The Mercury, NELN News, Protea Boekwinkel Stellenbosch Newsletter, Rapport, The Star: Tonight, Sowetan, Sunday Argus, The Sunday Independent, Umbuuso, The Witness, and Wordsetc.
Der unheimliche Papst. Alexander VI. Borgia. 1431-1503. Volker Reinhardt. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2007. 277 pp. Euro22.90. Götz-Rüdiger Tewes. Zeitschrift für historische Forschung 36.2 (2009): 323-24. [End Page 242]
Since "the awkward and mysterious popes have always aroused the particular interest of historians," it is little wonder that Reinhardt would consider Alexander VI worthy of a readable biography suited to a wider audience. Reinhardt cites Gregory the Great, who insisted that the papacy was strong enough to bear the occasional unworthy successor to Peter, and there can be no doubt that Alexander was one of them. Reinhardt presents his case as paradigmatic for "the seduction and delusion of absolute power." What recommends Reinhardt's biography is not least the skill with which it integrates biographical detail into the workings of the curia and places them within the wider political context. It provides a vivid and balanced account that benefits from the ability to offer acute thumbnail sketches of complex constellations, and explain troubling psychological characteristics without justifying them.
My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century. Adina Hoffman. New Haven: Yale UP, 2009. 454 pp. $27.50. Pankaj Mishra. NYRB, Dec. 3, 2009: 56-58.
"My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness, the first full-length biography in English of a Palestinian poet, would be a remarkable achievement even if it merely commemorated the life and work of Taha Muhammad Ali. However, Taha's private strivings, triumphs, and disappointments are linked inseparably to the fate of his community; his biography describes as well the obscure but intense struggles of an entire people: the Israeli Arabs, or Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, who though constituting 20 percent of Israel's population are much less written about than their counterparts in the West Bank and Gaza. . . . This unavoidably broadened canvas poses daunting challenges to even a biographer as diligent and resourceful as Adina Hoffman, an Israeli-American writer and publisher based in Jerusalem. There are any number of Israeli official histories and memoirs about 1948 and its aftermath, but hardly any accounts by Palestinians of what they call the Nakba, catastrophe. Aware of this asymmetry of knowledge, Hoffman not only examines Israeli archives with unremitting skepticism; she also questions perspicaciously the Palestinian tellers of anecdotes and the few surviving Israeli witnesses to the past."
Robert Altman: The Oral Biography. Mitchell Zuckoff. New York: Knopf, 2009. 560 pp. $35.00. Mark Harris. NYTBR, Nov. 8, 2009: 29.
"Zuckoff . . . has constructed his text almost entirely from interviews with nearly 200 of Altman's friends and enemies, colleagues and family members, as well as with the man himself. (Altman died at 81 in 2006 . . . and his voice is often absent from the book's last third.) As a form of Hollywood story telling, oral history has its drawbacks—too often, testimony substitutes for authorial perspective, and those unwilling or unable to speak for themselves can be short-shrifted in favor of...