JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES: A Personal Biography of the Man Who Revolutionized Capitalism and the Way we Lived by Charles H. Hession

JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES: A Personal Biography of the Man Who Revolutionized Capitalism and the Way we Lived

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""personal"" in the title means that Hession (John Kenneth Galbraith and His Critics) is not squeamish about Keynes' bisexuality, unlike Keynes' principal, and still unsurpassed, biographer, Roy Harrod. Hession thinks that a real appreciation of Keynes' creativity and its origins requires relentless concentration--for the first half of his life--on Keynes' youthful love affairs with Lytton Strachey and Duncan Grant and his shorter-term romances with (seemingly) countless other lads. The overkill is evident not only in the massive quotations from letters--loaded with lovers' quarrels, fits of pouting, and Bloomsbury-style titillation (lots of very detailed physical descriptions of mouths, hands, legs, etc.)--but also in the often silly psychoanalytic asides. One minute, Hession finds early predispositions toward homosexuality in Keynes' predilection for saying late in bed (a major subtheme is Keynes' self-discipline shown in making 9:00 tutorials or early morning meetings later on); another, in the confused role models presented by his parents. (His father liked to collect butterflies and wasn't particularly aggressive, having turned down an Oxford chair in political economy; his mother was an active social worker.) Hession also lays Keynes' fine abilities as a letter writer to a female disposition. Harrod may have been wrong in claiming that Keynes' most creative period came after his marriage in 1925 to the Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova--but Hession has gone after that misinterpretation with a vengeance. The personal details are now available to anyone interested, but the approach does nothing to advance or alter the interpretations of Keynes' achievements. Hession attributes Keynes' insights into the potentially disastrous reparations exacted from Germany at Versailles, which he analyzed in The Economic Consequences of the Peace, to his homosexual inclination toward emotional involvement: he was sensitive to the under-dog. Elsewhere Hession makes much out of Keynes' tendency to conceptualize things in opposites, a sign of androgyny. Neither interpretation is either necessary or convincing, and much the same can be said about this biography as a whole.

Pub Date: April 20th, 1984
Publisher: Macmillan