Biography & Autobiography

RECENT REVIEWS

Beyond the Shadow of Samuel Johnson

Beyond the Shadow of Samuel Johnson

“I WAS SURE I had genius, and was not deficient in easiness of expression, but was at a loss for something to say, and, when I set myself seriously to think of writing, that I wanted a subject.” S...

The Method Singer

The Method Singer

THERE SHE STANDS in the spotlight on a dark stage, an elegant woman wearing a white gown and a white gardenia in her hair. Depending on the year, Eleanora Fagan is either young and fresh and radiant, ...

Finding Susan

Finding Susan

IF YOU READ ANYTHING about Susan Sontag written since her death in 2004, it won’t take long for you to stumble across the fact that she could be, as Terry Castle puts it in her agonizingly generous...

An African American Life?

An African American Life?

NO ONE’S SURPRISED to learn that millions of African Americans in the 19th century were slaves. Even the poorest student of US history has a hard time ignoring this fact. But for those of us who te...

Richard Pryor’s Comedy of Fear

Richard Pryor’s Comedy of Fear

POETS, ROCK STARS, and Method actors may go to emotional extremes for their art, but we require a little more sobriety from stand-up comedians. Our contract with them is tight: we pay them for laughs ...

After The Fall

After The Fall

THERE’S A CERTAIN doggedness required to play the bass: a sonic obligation to carry the weight of others while keeping things together. It’s no surprise, then, that the recent biography from Steve...

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Me

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Me

WHEN I WAS A GIRL, I thought of Laura Ingalls Wilder as my grandmother, sort of. My mother had grown up in Missouri, down the road from Rocky Ridge Farm during the years Wilder was there writing the L...

How I Got Over: The Soul of Aretha Franklin

How I Got Over: The Soul of Aretha Franklin

DAVID RITZ’S new biography of Aretha Franklin, Respect, is not the book Franklin wanted written. The Queen of Soul already published the book she wanted, From These Roots, which Ritz himself ghostwr...

Unique Justice

Unique Justice

IT WAS HARD to force myself to finish reading this biography of Antonin Scalia. Reading nearly 500 pages about someone I dislike is an enormous chore. For many reasons, I am not a fan of Scalia. I am...

In Your Choice Lies Your Talent

In Your Choice Lies Your Talent

WHAT WAS IT about the combination of the acting theories of Constantin Stanislavsky and the United States of America in the middle of the 20th century that produced such vehement loyalties and feroci...

The Art of Cultivating Friends

The Art of Cultivating Friends

THE MORASS that is the Arab world today does not exactly invite empathy: new terrorist groups sprout every year (spurring fresh attempts to aerially eradicate them); in many places there’s an open c...

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

IF HE WASN’T a Beatle, then who was he? What was he? These were questions Paul McCartney had never had to ask himself, but he was asking them now. It was 1969, the year he’d made the legal moves t...

Writers’ Private Lives

Writers’ Private Lives

LITERARY BIOGRAPHERS POSSESS a position in our culture at once respectable and ignoble. If they are successful, they illuminate an author’s work, amplifying rather than diminishing it. If not, they ...