- Excerpts from Recent Reviews of Biographies, Autobiographies, and Other Works of Interest
Contributing reviewers Nell Altizer, Patricia Angley, Alana Bell, Judith Lütge Coullie, Lars Fischer, Noel Kent, Barbara Bennett Peterson, and Forrest R. Pitts provided the excerpts for this issue.
Publications reviewed include American Quarterly, American Scientist, Cape Argus, Daily Maverick, Eighteenth Century Fiction, French Studies, (Toronto) Globe and Mail, Hawaiian Journal of History, Hispanic Review, Journal of Asian Studies, Journal of Contemporary European Studies, Journal of Gender Studies, Mail and Guardian, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books (NYRB), New York Times Book Review (NYTBR), Pacific Historical Review, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Science, sehepunkte.de, Times Literary Supplement (TLS), Tonight, Victorian Studies, Witness, and Women’s Review of Books.
Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion. Anne Somerset. New York: Knopf, 2013. 621 pp. $35.00.
“Anne Somerset . . . has now produced a spirited and extremely convincing defense of the hapless Anne. So many of our unflattering ideas about Anne, she points out, have come from the vindictive pen of the Duchess of Marlborough. . . . ‘Queen Anne’ is essentially a political biography: British party politics were born in Queen Anne’s lifetime, during the attempt to exclude her Catholic father from the succession.”
Brooke Allen. NYTBR, Dec. 1, 2013: 1, 21.
The Young Ataturk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey. George W. Gawrych. London: I. B. Tauris, 2013. 288 pp. $35.00.
“Gawrych focuses primarily on the military aspect of the ‘young Ataturk’ and states clearly that he does not aim to provide a comprehensive assessment of the wider legacy of his subject. . . . Gawrych’s overwhelming intention is to provide exhaustive accounts of every major military clash that took place between the Turks and the Greeks . . . but such intricate accounts of the minutiae of military strategy are trying. . . . Gawrych makes clear that Ataturk’s ‘rigidity never overshadowed his robust pragmatism’ in political struggles.”
William Armstrong. TLS, Nov. 15, 2013. [End Page 866]
Report From the Interior. Paul Auster. New York: Henry Holt, 2013. 341 pp. $27.00.
“[O]n the basis of his five memoirs alone, Auster should be recognized as one of the great American prose stylists of our time. ‘Report from the Interior’ is a companion text to the 2012 ‘Winter Journal.’ Where that book was a history of the author’s body, this one is a history of his psychological development. . . . Both use second-person narration, which is easy to label a gimmick, but here it feels natural, inextricable from the rest of the prose. . . . [T]he best parts of ‘Report From the Interior’ are as excellent as one could hope.”
Sarah Manguso. NYTBR, Dec. 22, 2013: 12.
Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven. John Eliot Gardiner. New York: Knopf, 2013. 629 pp. $55.00.
“As eloquent a writer as he is a musician, Gardiner brings to his study the invaluable perspective of the practitioner. . . . The reader doesn’t need to know a semiquaver from a diminished seventh to know that Gardiner’s account would have gained texture from sharing even more of his own experiences. As it is, it’s an eccentric, endearing volume, particularly in its early chapters, which involve chatty, humane digressions into Germany’s history, education system and 17th-century musical life that place Bach in a context so well defined that we end up feeling we know him better than we do. The book jumps around in time too much to be an ideal introductory biography . . . and it isn’t a comprehensive study of Bach’s music. . . . Still, working from the limited textual evidence, and using the music as credible support, the book does press a fresh, persuasive interpretation of Bach’s personality.”
Zachary Woolfe. NYTBR, Dec. 8, 2013: 73.
Levels of Life. Julian Barnes. New York: Knopf, 2013. 144 pp. $22.95.
“Julian Barnes was married for thirty years to a woman he loved, the literary agent Pat Kavanaugh. Levels of Life is an examination of the void she left behind when she died in 2008. The book is short, crisp, measured, and deeply felt. Not a grief memoir so much as a grief meditation, it...