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Biography 25.2 (2002) 410-449
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Contributing editors Judith Coullie, Michael Fassiotto, Corey Hollis, Gabriel Merle, Barbara Bennett Peterson, and Bronwen Solyom provided the excerpts for this issue.
Publications reviewed include Albion, American Quarterly, The Historian, Journal of Asian American Studies, the Los Angeles Times Book Review (LATBR), Le Monde des Livres, The New Yorker, the New York Review of Books (NYRB), the New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), Le Nouvel Observateur, Pacific Historical Review, the Weekend Australian, and the Women's Review of Books; and from South Africa, Die Burger, The Citizen, City Press, Eastcape Weekend, Pretoria News, Scrutiny2, The Sunday Independent, and the Sunday Times.
Edward Abbey: A Life. James M. Cahalan. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2001. 357 pp. $27.95.
Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey. Jack Loeffler. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 2001. 298 pp. $24.95.
"James M. Cahalan's 'Edward Abbey: A Life' is thoroughly researched and impeccable in its recitation of the facts, but it is a he-went-where-when account that leaves its subject curiously lifeless on the page. It is at its best when quoting from Abbey's books, letters and journals, and Cahalan has unearthed some of Abbey's finest bon mots along the way. He is reticent, however, on the subject of Abbey's marriages and endless sexual dalliances, and he offers no literary analysis and little insight into Abbey's mind. His stated purpose is to demythologize Abbey, 'to separate fact from fiction and reality from myth,' and he does an admirable job of correcting many of the misapprehensions surrounding Abbey's life, not the least of which were fostered by Abbey himself in the service of refining his own image. And to be fair to Cahalan, who is a professor of English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he was apparently operating under strict limits imposed by his publisher. . . . Jack Loeffler's account, 'Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey,' isn't nearly so ambitious [as Cahalan's book]—it is a memoir—but it presents the central outline of Abbey's life and provides original material about his youth gleaned from interviews with his father, sister, and brother. More important, it tells stories. Loeffler, an ethno-musicologist and radio producer in Santa Fe, was one of Abbey's closest associates, one of his campañeros, the buddies with whom he would drink, camp, philosophize, cruise the deserts and hike the canyons of the sun-blasted southwest."
T. Coraghessan Boyle. NYTBR, Feb. 10, 2002: 8. [End Page 410]
A Passage to Africa. London: Little, Brown, 2001. 286 pp. R189.
Born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Alagiah grew up in Ghana. A Passage to Africa is an autobiographical account of this BBC journalist's travels in Africa—in Ghana, Liberia, Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa. He gives an eyewitness account of newsworthy events, and his experiences of them. For readers who seek an overview of recent political developments, Alagiah's book offers a stimulating history lesson. Occasionally romanticised and reliant on generalisation, Alagiah nevertheless maintains a critical distance.
Herman Wasserman. Die Burger, Feb. 11, 2002: 7.
Passage to Africa "is a profound, soul-stirring and introspective exploration" of Alagiah's relationship with the continent.
Sandile Mimela. City Press, Dec. 9, 2001: 26.
Alexander, Annie Montague
On Her Own: Annie Montague Alexander and the Rise of Science in the American West. Barbara R. Stein. Berkeley: U of California P, 2001. 435 pp. $35.00.
"Stein's biography concentrates on the aspects of Alexander's life that are well recorded, often quoting from diaries and correspondence while only hinting at the private motives and personal dimensions that this forceful but apparently closely guarded naturalist rarely revealed directly. . . . There are surprisingly few biographies of upper-class women, aside from those who deliberately chose social activism or highly visible public philanthropy. Alexander resisted having specimens or buildings named in her honor and provided her benefactions unobtrusively but in a way that provided purposeful work for her. Stein's thoughtful and deliberate account reminds us that Alexander's role in science was...