In the News, July 2020
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Longfellow is a fast-paced and eloquent account of a man whose beautiful, knowing poetry has been made to seem as outdated as crinoline or starched collars."—Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Review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 06.06.20: 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."
Posted 03.27.20: "A poignant look at the father of his country in the twilight of his life. Horn has a fluid, pleasing style, with stately cadences that suit his subject…. An air of melancholy hangs over Horn's tale."—Michael F. Bishop, National Review, on Washington's End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle by Jonathan D. Horn
Posted 03.25.20: A starred Kirkus Review for Cross of Snow: A Life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Nicholas A. Basbanes: “A welcome new biography of the iconic 19th-century poet. In this comprehensive, affectionate, and astute biography, the first in many years, Basbanes provides a valuable reassessment of the once-beloved poet who fell from grace in the literary establishment just years after his death…. Drawing on previously unexplored primary source material, he focuses as much on the private man—especially the influential roles Longfellow's two beloved wives, Mary and Fanny, had on his work—as he does on the public one. Their horrific deaths affected him greatly…. A revelatory exploration of Longfellow's life and art and how he became a ‘dominant force in American Letters.' (with 76 photos).” (Forthcoming in June from Knopf.)
Posted 02.29.20: "The historical memory of George Washington frequently dims or ends at his Farewell Address in 1796, when he offered sage advice to his fellow Americans on both domestic and foreign policy. The final three years of Washington's life, however, were eventful for the former president and the nation, and Jonathan D. Horn in his new book Washington's End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle provides a captivating and enlightening look at Washington's post-presidential life and the politically divided country that was part of his legacy."—New York Journal of Books
Posted 02.05.20: The #1 New York Times Best Seller! Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America's Progressive Elite by Peter Schweizer ("Schweizer offers a deep-dive investigation into the private finances and secret deals of some of America's top political leaders. And, as usual, he doesn't disappoint."). Peter Schweizer is the author of Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends (“An enraging look at how elected officials and those they appoint betray the public trust.... Focusing on corruption by both major parties.”) and Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich (“A powerful story of money-grubbing and sleaze.").
Posted 02.04.20: "Are the Republicans or Democrats or both headed for fragmentation or oblivion, and the American political system therefore destined for disruption or even chaos? In his lucid, concise, and deeply informative new book, How America's Political Parties Change (and How They Don't), Michael Barone provides the basis for a clear answer to those questions.... As a leading authority on American politics and political history, the coauthor of an indispensable guide to the subject, and the author as well of several well-received books about American history and politics, Barone knows whereof he speaks."—Michael Mandelbaum, The American Interest
Posted 01.10.20: A #1 Amazon bestseller! Profiles in Corruption: Abuse of Power by America's Progressive Elite by Peter Schweizer, author of Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends (“An enraging look at how elected officials and those they appoint betray the public trust.... Focusing on corruption by both major parties.”) and Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich (“A powerful story of money-grubbing and sleaze.").
Posted 01.10.20: Library Journal on Washington's End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle by Jonathan D. Horn: “An outstanding biographical work on one of America's most prominent leaders. Highly recommended for those who want to better understand the early republic.”
Posted 01.09.20: Now in paperback: Jews and Power by Ruth R. Wisse, "An erudite, polemical essay that attempts to encapsulate the entire political history of diaspora Jewry in just 184 pages of text.... Wisse is a brilliant scholar of enviable narrative gifts."—Susan Jacoby, Washington Post Book World; "A good, fighting book that contains much information in few pages."—Anthony Julius, The New York Times Book Review
Posted 12.17.19: “An urgent appeal to prevent the privatization of our public schools…. A fervent defense of public education with abundant examples of how privatization has failed to deliver on its promises.”—Kirkus Reviews on Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America's Public Schools by Diane Ravitch forthcoming from Knopf.
Posted 11.25.19: Kirkus Reviews on Washington's End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle: “A scholar of American history and former presidential speechwriter delves into the last poignant years of the first president and his struggle to define his legacy…. Finally leaving the nation's capital of Philadelphia upon his successor's inauguration on March 4, 1797, bound for his beloved Virginia home, Mount Vernon, George Washington did not realize how arduous his retirement was going to prove after eight years as president. He was 65 and healthy, yet the pressures were enormous, as Jonathan D. Horn clearly delineates in this welcome new biography of ‘America's first post-presidency.'… In a readable style that includes an appropriate amount of quoting from primary sources, Horn ably captures the tension of Washington's inner turmoil as he continued to deal with urgent dispatches and unwanted news from the capital. A useful biography that provides an honest reckoning of Washington's life and legacy.”
Posted 11.09.19: On How America's Political Parties Change (and How They Don't) by Michael Barone: "This slim collection of essays incisively chronicles both parties' victories and defeats over the past century and a half.... Superb analysis."—Barton Swaim, The Wall Street Journal; "A fascinating brief history of the two parties and their fortunes, and a reminder that today's apparent trend-lines are not forever."—Richard Baehr, American Thinker; "Barone draws on his decades of analysis of the American political scene, his nearly bottomless well of granular knowledge of American political geography, and the more detailed analyses laid out in his multiple previous books. The result is a long-term narrative portrait of our two major parties, now both over 150 years old." — Dan McLaughlin, National Review