The ins and outs of the biographer's craft, by a man who has penned several (Fox at the Wood's Edge, 1990. etc.—not reviewed). Biography, it seems, is an enterprise fraught with dangers, and in these 13 essays, Christianson (History/Indiana State) tackles them all. Most worrisome is the biographer's relation to his subject: Adversary? Advocate? Christianson argues that the biographer must identify with his subject—even if the subject happens to be Adolf Hitler. A connected issue is that of privacy: While Christianson notes that Barbara Tuchman and many others have staunchly defended the limits of investigation, he points out that ``the biographer is necessarily intrusive.'' These edgy topics and others are illustrated by the author's experiences while writing lives of Sir Isaac Newton and Loren Eiseley, both of whom were difficult subjects (Christianson describes Newton as ``an emotional eunuch,'' and says that Eiseley's autobiographical writings were fraught with extensive dissembling). As for the biographer's tools, the most important is research; the author wittily recounts the pitfalls of interviewing the living (like Eiseley's widow, who reminded Christianson of Dickens's Miss Havisham) and of resurrecting the dead (usually by threading one's way through labyrinthine archives, where a friendly librarian makes all the difference). Also discussed are writer's block, agents, book titles, fan mail, the future of the craft, and the sublime pleasures of handling a piece of the past (in England, Christianson momentarily holds—and ponders pilfering—a lock of Newton's hair). Top-heavy with Eiseley and Newton anecdotes, limiting the popular appeal—but a must-read for biographers everywhere.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-208-02382-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1993

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?



An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?