Steadily intelligent, musically aware, sympathetic but objective life of the wife and goddess of Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, novelist Franz Werfel, and a handful of geniuses who loved her unstintedly. Keegan's Alma Mahler towers above Francoise Giroud's recent Alma Mahler or the Art of Being Loved (p. 30), which was a brief but empty exercise. This biography from journalist Keegan (wife of historian John Keegan) is finely researched, more than twice as long as Giroux's, packed with rich cultural detail, and gives a far more complex and redoubtable Alma. As daughter of Emil Schindler, an excellent Viennese landscape artist, Alma breathed art and artists. A songwriter, she early chose a destiny as love-goddess to geniuses, allowing herself to be adored, kissed, and who knows what else by many rising composers, usually teachers twice her age. Emil died while Alma was still young, and her aging suitors were dad's replacements. So when she met 40-year-old Mahler, she found the daddy of her dreams, surrendered before marriage--a big thing in those days--and went to the altar pregnant. Gustav demanded she give up songwriting, one composer in the household being enough, and devote herself to him. This regimen took strongly, and Alma gave Gustav more attention than she did their children. But, feeling neglected during Mahler's working hours as Vienna's great opera director and leading cultural figure, she wandered, came back, wandered more. During her third marriage, to Werfel, she made it clear to him that he could never be a great German writer since he was Jewish--then made sure he wrote moneymakers, including the ""Catholic"" novel The Song of Bernadette. A classy woman--even as an old fatty hooked on benedictine.