June 17, 2012 |
Barack Obama The Story David Maraniss Simon & Schuster: 643 pp., $32.50 Abnormal men become presidents of the United States. The overweening self-confidence required to reach for the office, the preternatural discipline and effort of will needed to grasp it - in another setting, these traits might be called pathological. Tracing the roots of abnormality becomes a recurring motif in presidential biographies: polio's impact on Franklin D. Roosevelt, the death of John F. Kennedy's eldest brother, the absent or dysfunctional fathers of Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton.
June 3, 2012
American Tapestry The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama Rachel L. Swarns Amistad, $27.99 An intimate look at the First Lady's colorful family tree going back five generations, traversing through the Revolutionary and Civil wars, the great migration and on to the White House. (June) As Texas Goes… How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda Gail Collins Norton/Liveright, $25.95 How the conservative political agenda growing deep in the heart of Texas is creating social and economic consequences for the rest of the country.
May 25, 2012 |
WASHINGTON-- Just in case there are any voters out there who don't already know that the incumbent president smoked marijuana as a teenager, several websites Friday revealed details from David Maraniss' soon-to-be-released biography about the young Barry Obama and his “choom gang.” Maraniss' book doesn't get officially released to the public until mid-June, but advance copies sent to reviewers have been circulating. And in the Internet era, efforts to maintain embargos on newsy details of new books have become increasingly futile.
May 20, 2012 |
The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat Thomas McNamee Free Press, 339 pp., $27 Ask your average Food Network viewer or Yelp poster about Craig Claiborne and you're likely to be met with a blank look and a "Who?" How fleeting is fame in the food world. Claiborne is one of the giants of this modern age, even if today - less than 20 years after his passing - he is largely forgotten. People remember James Beard because of the foundation that keeps his name alive. Julia Child lives on in television reruns (even if some fans now believe she looked just like Meryl Streep)
May 4, 2012 |
A future president sits shirtless in his rent-controlled Manhattan apartment working the New York Times crossword while his girlfriend looks on, an emotional barrier separating him from those close to him. He is unsure of his future path in life but certain that it will be one he builds himself. That's the portrait David Maraniss paints of a young Barack Obama in an upcoming biography, "Barack Obama: The Story," which is excerpted in Vanity Fair. The biography ends as Obama heads to Harvard Law School, but the excerpt is mostly about Obama's early love life.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 4, 2012 |
Charles Higham, a poet, critic and prolific celebrity biographer who found political and sexual intrigue in the lives of Hollywood icons such as Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich and, most controversially, Errol Flynn, died April 21 at his Los Angeles home. He was 81. The cause was apparently a heart attack, according to Todd McCarthy, a close friend. Higham was the author of two dozen biographies, many of which were so salacious that a book critic reviewing "Howard Hughes: The Secret Life" in 1993 quipped that the writer had "reached the point where most of his subjects have slept with one another.
April 26, 2012
Detroit: A Biography Scott Martelle Chicago Review Press: 288 pp., $24.95
April 26, 2012 |
Detroit: A Biography Scott Martelle Chicago Review Press: 288 pp., $24.95 In February 1863, Thomas Faulkner, a Detroit saloon owner of mixed-race background, was arrested on the charge of raping a 9-year-old white girl. Despite his protestations of innocence, Faulkner was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The Civil War-era incident incited a white mob to burn 35 homes, kill at least two black people and injure numerous others. It's a chilling story - all the more so because there was no rape.
April 15, 2012 |
David Hockney A Rake's Progress The Biography, 1937-1975 Christopher Simon Sykes Nan A. Talese/Doubleday: 384 pp., $35 With the deaths last year of Lucian Freud and Richard Hamilton, David Hockney suddenly catapulted into position as England's leading painter. Although the cultivated image of a dandified English schoolboy in white pants, mismatched socks, polka-dot bow tie and beanie is long out of date for an artist who, at 74, is identified with iconic 1960s paintings of Los Angeles swimming pools, the thought is a bit of a shock.
April 1, 2012 |
My assignment: Read almost 300 literary biographies in more than 800 pages, all of English-language authors, beginning in the 17th century and ending in the present day. "That's like reading a reference book!" said a shocked friend. Yes, but no: Every entry in "Lives of the Novelists" is written by just one person, British critic John Sutherland, so the book has an internal continuity that makes it read like history, not an encyclopedia. And Sutherland's writing is just plain delightful.