Annal: 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Results of the National Book Critics Circle Award in the year 1999.

Book:The Hairstons

The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White

Henry Wiencek

The Hairstons are extraordinary families, both black and white, who share a complex and compelling history that embodies the legacy of slavery and shows how that legacy has passed into our own time.

Opening at the remote North Carolina plantation of Cooleemee, The Hairstons reads like a gothic tale filled with vexing mysteries. In an attempt to resolve those mysteries, Henry Wiencek crisscrossed the old plantation country in Virginia, North Carolina, and Mississippi, seeking out Hairston descendants and immersing himself in the musty archives of plantations and courthouses. The result is a richly textured portrait of seven generations that examines the ambiguities of slavery and its painful aftermath.

The black family’s story traces the triumphant rise of a remarkable people—the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren…[more]

Book:Coleridge: Volume 2. Darker Reflections

Coleridge: Volume 2. Darker Reflections

Richard Holmes

Coleridge: Darker Reflections, the long-awaited second volume, chronicles the last thirty years of his career (1804-1834), a period of domestic and professional turmoil. His marriage foundered, his opium addiction increased, he quarreled bitterly with Wordsworth, and his son, Hartley (a gifted poet himself), became an alcoholic. But after a desperate time of transition, Coleridge reemerged as a new kind of philosophical and meditative author, a great and daring poet, and a lecturer of genius.

Holmes traces the development of Coleridge into a legend among the younger generation of Romantic writers—the “hooded eagle amongst blinking owls”—and the influence he had on Hazlitt, De Quincey, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Walter Scott, Carlyle, and J. S. Mill, among others. And he rediscovers Coleridge’s power as a conversationalist and a ceaseless generator of ideas. As Charles Lamb noted, “his face when he repeats his verses hath its ancient glory, an Archangel a little damaged.” …[more]

Book:Morgan: American Financier

Morgan: American Financier

Jean Strouse

History has remembered J. Pierpont Morgan as a complex and contradictory figure, part robber baron and part patron saint. Now this magisterial biography, based extensively on new material, draws a definitive, full-scale portrait of Morgan’s tumultuous life both in and out of the public eye.Morgan earned his reputation as “the Napoleon of Wall Street” by reorganizing the nation’s railroads and creating some of its greatest industrial trusts, including General Electric and U.S. Steel. At a time when the United States had no Federal Reserve System, he appointed himself a one-man central bank. He had two wives, three yachts, four children, six houses, mistresses, and one of the finest art collections in America. In this extraordinary book, award-winning biographer Jean Strouse vividly portrays the financial colossus, the avid patron of the arts, and the entirely human character behind all the myths.

Brilliantly crafted, epic in scope, Morgan reveals a man we have never seen before, offering new insights on the culture, political struggles, and social conflicts of America’s Gilded Age.

Book:Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette

Judith Thurman

A scandalously talented stage performer, a practiced seductress of both men and women, and the flamboyant author of some of the greatest works of twentieth-century literature, Colette was our first true superstar. Now, in Judith Thurman’s Secrets of the Flesh, Colette at last has a biography worthy of her dazzling reputation.

Having spent her childhood in the shadow of an overpowering mother, Colette escaped at age twenty into a turbulent marriage with the sexy, unscrupulous Willy—a literary charlatan who took credit for her bestselling Claudine novels. Weary of Willy’s sexual domination, Colette pursued an extremely public lesbian love affair with a niece of Napoleon’s. At forty, she gave birth to a daughter who bored her, at forty-seven she seduced her teenage stepson, and in her seventies she flirted with the Nazi occupiers of Paris, even though her beloved third husband, a Jew, had been arrested by the Gestapo. And all the while, this incomparable…[more]

Book:The Trust

The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times

Susan E. Tifft, Alex S. Jones

With full cooperation from the families and unconditional access to the Times archives, Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones have written the first insiders biography of the most powerful media clan in America.

When Adolph Ochs, the son of poor Jewish immigrants, bought the bankrupt New York Times in 1896, he transformed it into America’s most respected and powerful newspaper. His family’s values and prejudices set the agenda for the paper and came to set the agenda for the nation. The Trust is a dramatic saga set against a backdrop of world events, succession battles, and the burden and privilege of wealth and power. Spanning four generations, The Trust tells the story of Ochs, a visionary plagued by depression and insecurity; his daughter Iphigene, who fiercely guarded the family mystique; her husband, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the paper’s most controversial publisher; their son Punch, whose amiable nature masked a steely toughness; and Arthur Jr., the brash successor, who is leading the Times into the future. Despite the author’s success, The Trust was written independent of family control.

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