In the News, October 2020
Posted 10.16.20: “How Longfellow's life and loves fashioned his writing is the theme of Nicholas Basbanes's Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a new, deeply researched, and readable biography…. Basbanes is a great biographer. He has the detective, forensic, semantic, and soothsayer skills to tease new meaning from the material…. Cross of Snow is enlightening, perceptive, and moving. I hope it moves its readers to visit Longfellow's poems, either anew or for the first time. They're beautifully written, with characters and settings we can visualize, as we can those in Basbanes's book. They're magically transportive, too, and couldn't we use a dose of magic today?”—Brian T. Allen, National Review
Posted 09.24.20: Susan Gubar writes in today's New York Times on David Lehman's "brilliantly circumspect" One Hundred Autobiographies: A Memoir: “I was reading David Lehman's account of his bladder cancer, a disease that also disproportionately afflicts men. His brilliantly circumspect 2019 memoir, One Hundred Autobiographies.... An accomplished poet, editor and scholar, Mr. Lehman exhibits grace under the pressure exerted by disabling treatments…. In a work evasive about the here-and-now of cancer, the past becomes pervasive and, as Mr. Lehman's title suggests, multiplied. The shock of imminent mortality that disease administers sparks retrospection. A possibly truncated future after diagnosis expands the period of time before diagnosis, as Mr. Lehman recasts resonant ‘spots of time.'”
Posted 09.01.20: Publishers Weekly on or Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles: The Power of the Reader's Mind over a Universe of Death by Harold Bloom: "Late critic and Yale professor Bloom leaves behind a passionate reflection on a lifetime of reading. Conscious of his own limited time left, he reflects that 'if life is to be more than breathing, it needs the enhancement of knowledge or the kind of love that is a form of knowledge,' as he describes gaining from his favorite authors.... Perhaps Bloom's most personal work, this is a fitting last testament to one of America's leading 20th-century literary minds."
Posted 08.21.20: A starred Library Journal review of Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws by William N. Eskridge, Jr. and Christopher R. Riano: "A comprehensive account of the long struggle for same-sex marriage. Though ostensibly a legal history, this work is much more than that as the authors interweave stories of people, some well-known, others not, into a compelling narrative.... The work is beautifully and accessibly written. Both general and academic readers will appreciate its comprehensiveness as well as its attention to the human side of the story. An essential work."
Posted 08.20.20: “A masterpiece…. I have no hesitation in calling it ‘magisterial.' It should spark a Longfellow revival, something long overdue…. This is a labor of love.”—Al Southwick in the Worcester Telegram on Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Posted 08.12.20: A starred Kirkus review for An Aristocracy of Critics: Luce, Hutchins, Niebuhr, and the Committee That Redefined Freedom of the Press by Stephen Bates: “A fascinating, prodigiously researched intellectual history…Bates offers a penetrating examination…. A well-constructed, timely study, clearly relevant to current debates.”
Posted 08.11.20: At #5 on The Wall Street Journal's Nonfiction E-Book Bestseller list: Of Monkey Bridges and Banh Mi Sandwiches by Oanh Ngo Usadi
Posted 08.04.20: “A sheer joy to read for its portrayal of the amazing life of the first ‘poet of the people.'”—Library Journal in a starred review of Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Posted 08.04.20: "Well-evidenced and thought-provoking…. This is a powerful glimpse of a crisis in the making." — Sarah Ditum, The Daily Mail, on Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by Abigail Shrier
Posted 07.16.20: “Abigail Shrier's latest book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters, accomplishes the Herculean task of revealing and explicating the history, circumstances, and repercussions of an ideology that has to a great extent targeted adolescent and teen girls, evidenced by a 4,000 percent increase in child referrals to gender clinics in the last ten years, most of whom are females. Shrier, a parent and Oxford-, Columbia-, and Yale-educated attorney and journalist who writes for the Wall Street Journal, digs deeply and widely into this phenomenon, interviewing doctors, researchers, teachers, therapists, transgender-identified adults, and transgender-identified children and their parents in a search for answers to two questions: ‘Why?' and ‘What now?'…. An exhaustively researched and meticulously organized treatise that deftly interweaves strands of personal narrative, biography, exposé, investigative journalism, and parental guidance, Irreversible Damage draws back the curtain on a phenomenon cloaking itself as heroism while devouring with blood and malice a vulnerable and valuable segment of our next generation. Anyone who has daughters or cares about children should read this book.”—Maria Keffler, The Federalist
Posted 07.14.20: "Nicholas A. Basbanes is a seasoned writer on bookish subjects, a compassionate investigator, and Cross of Snow is a quietly superb Longfellow biography, fit to stand alongside its scandalously few predecessors.... Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is a fast-paced and eloquent account of a man whose beautiful, knowing poetry has been made to seem as outdated as crinoline or starched collars."—Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Review
Posted 07.08.20: A starred review from Kirkus for Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles: The Power of the Reader's Mind over a Universe of Death by the late Harold Bloom: “In 16 dense, erudite, and surprisingly intimate essays, Bloom offers a sweeping overview of major Western poets, from Homer to contemporary African American Jay Wright, whom Bloom praises as ‘among the best American poets of whatever origin or complexion.' As well as celebrating beloved writers, Bloom also reassesses his own work. ‘If you live ninety years,' he admits, ‘you will be a battered survivor. Your own mistakes, accidents, failures at otherness beat you down.' To assuage those feelings, he advises, ‘Rise up at dawn and read something that matters as soon as you can.'... Now, he reveals, the anxiety of influence ‘seems to me literary love tempered by ambivalence, as all love is.” Throughout, Freud looms large as ‘a major essayist in the tradition of Montaigne and Emerson, and not as a supposed scientist'; not as ‘the master of dream interpretation (where I doubt him) and certainly not the would-be therapist (talking cures) but the pessimistic seer of the human condition.' Bloom's visceral connection to poets results in vivid, vigorous portraits.... Early on in this astute collection, the author marks his terrain: ‘What you read and how deeply you read matters almost as much as how you love, work, exercise, vote, practice charity, strive for social justice, cultivate kindness and courtesy, worship if you are capable of worship. The mind is an activity and will decay into dark inertia if not sustained by the sustenance of reading.' Reading, this stirring collection testifies, ‘helps in staying alive.'.” To be published October 13 by Yale University Press.
Posted 06.23.20: The Christian Science Monitor names Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow one of the "10 Best Books of June": "The poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow aren't in great fashion today, but in the first major biography of the fabled New England poet in many years, Nicholas A. Basbanes argues that Longfellow is starting to make a comeback. His exhaustively researched account of Longfellow's life and career should give that reappraisal a boost."
Posted 06.19.20: “Longfellow and his times are brought vividly to life by Nicholas A. Basbanes in his authoritative and wonderfully readable Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow…. Basbanes draws on a rich abundance of correspondence, diaries, journals and notebooks and gives readers generous excerpts from Longfellow and many others…. Basbanes uses his sources well, transporting readers beautifully to the world of a poet who is often overlooked. If you enjoy literary biography, this is a book to savor.”—Roger Bishop, BookPage, and “With the arrival of Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the fabled 19th-century poet has perhaps found his ideal biographer in Nicholas A. Basbanes.”—Danny Heitman, Christian Science Monitor
Posted 06.09.20: Publishers Weekly on Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws by William N. Eskridge, Jr. and Christopher R. Riano forthcoming in August: “Law scholars Eskridge and Riano document the legal, political, and religious arguments for and against same-sex marriage, as well as stories of gay couples who fought for their relationships to be legally recognized, in this comprehensive history of the battle for equal marriage rights in America…. The sheer volume of information (including a six-page glossary of terms and acronyms) staggers…. Still, Eskridge and Riano lighten the proceedings with a playful sense of humor and portraits of the people behind the lawsuits. LGBTQ allies and legal students will be rewarded by the impressive survey of how far the gay rights movement has come.”
Posted 06.06.20: The New York Times on Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes: "[He] seems to know everything there is to know about Longfellow…[he] is a painstaking researcher, the kind who turns every page, as Robert Caro would say, and he has benefited from access to lots of material previously unavailable… What [Longfellow] wanted was to be popular, to be read and understood by everyone, and he achieved that more than any American writer before or since. He was exactly the poet he wanted to be."—Charles McGrath, "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: America's No. 1 Literary Celebrity"
Posted 06.03.20: A starred review from Booklist for Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes: “Critically acclaimed Basbanes spent 12 years working on this thoughtful, investigative biography, drawing upon previously untapped personal diaries, journals, and letters, including those of Fanny Appleton, Longfellow's smart and talented second wife…. Basbanes' fresh portrait should restore deserved respect for and interest in once-ubiquitous Longfellow.” And praise from The New Yorker, “Yet Longfellow's fame proved to be more perishable than expected. How did he reach the summit, and what explains the century-old collapse of his literary reputation, which now shows some flickering signs of revival? Nicholas Basbanes tells the tale with diligence, affection, and an occasional note of special pleading in Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.”
Posted 05.23.20: “Nicholas A. Basbanes's superbly sympathetic Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is, perhaps, the biography Longfellow himself would have most liked to read. Absorbing the underlying message of Longfellow's poetry, Mr. Basbanes writes about him the way a friend would, with generosity, gentleness and grace. The author of several well-received books on collectors and collecting, Mr. Basbanes is the ideal biographer.”—The Wall Street Journal
Posted 04.14.20: Publishers Weekly on Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes: "Longfellow was far more than the old-fashioned and ‘white-bearded Fireside Poet' of popular memory, writes cultural historian Basbanes in this illuminating biography. Basbanes follows Longfellow from his childhood in Portland, Maine, to his teenage travels in Europe and early career as a Bowdoin language and literature professor with an impressive facility for foreign languages. Yearning to write full time and create a ‘form of literary expression distinctive to his time and place,' he became one of the 19th century's most successful authors.... The book also emphasizes Longfellow's relationships with smart, intellectual women, as exemplified by his brilliant and cosmopolitan second wife, Fanny. The devastating deaths of both his wives—Mary, his first, from miscarriage, and Fanny in a horrific fire—lead to striking portraits of grief. Basbanes notes that Longfellow's reputation, demolished by early-20th-century literary modernists, has only recently begun to recover. This volume is an excellent addition to that worthy cause and is a captivating tale of a ‘life lived well and lived in full.'"
Posted 03.27.20: David Lehman's One Hundred Autobiographies: A Memoir is a finalist for the 2019 INDIES Book of the Year Awards: "One Hundred Autobiographies tells the story of Lehman's (provisionally) victorious battle to defeat bladder cancer. During the three-year ordeal of his illness and aftermath, Lehman kept a journal, and the 100-part structure he adopted for the book allows for flashbacks, memories, meditations, and dreams and the occasion to tell his life story or, better yet, a story of the many lives he has lived."