Annal: 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2005.

Book:Matisse the Master

Matisse the Master: Volume 2. The Conquest of Colour: 1909-1954

Hilary Spurling

“If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to finish, it would amaze everyone,” wrote Henri Matisse. It is hard to believe today that Matisse, whose exhibitions draw huge crowds worldwide, was once almost universally reviled and ridiculed. His response was neither to protest nor to retreat; he simply pushed on from one innovation to the next, and left the world to draw its own conclusions. Unfortunately, these were generally false and often damaging. Throughout his life and afterward people fantasized about his models and circulated baseless fabrications about his private life.

Fifty years after his death, Matisse the Master (the second half of the biography that began with the acclaimed The Unknown Matisse) shows us the painter as he saw himself. With unprecedented and unrestricted access to his voluminous family correspondence, and other new material in private archives, Hilary Spurling documents a lifetime of desperation and…[more]

Book:Melville

Melville: His World and Work

Andrew Delbanco

With Moby-Dick Herman Melville set the standard for the Great American Novel, and with “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Benito Cereno, and Billy Budd he completed perhaps the greatest oeuvre of any of our writers. Now Andrew Delbanco, hailed by Time as “America’s best social critic,” uses unparalleled historical and critical perspective to give us both a commanding biography and a riveting portrait of the young nation.

The grandson of Revolutionary War heroes, Melville was born into a family that in the fledgling republic had lost both money and status. Half New Yorker, half New Englander, and toughened at sea as a young man, he returned home to chronicle the deepest crises of his era, from the increasingly shrill debates over slavery through the bloodbath of the Civil War to the intellectual and spiritual revolution wrought by Darwin. Meanwhile, the New York of his youth, where letters were delivered by horseback messengers,…[more]

Book:Mencken

Mencken: The American Iconoclast

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers

A towering figure on the American cultural landscape, H.L. Mencken stands out as one of our most influential stylists and fearless iconoclasts—the twentieth century’s greatest newspaper journalist, a famous wit, and a constant figure of controversy.

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers has written the definitive biography of Mencken, the most illuminating book ever published about this giant of American letters. Rodgers captures both the public and the private man, covering the many love affairs that made him known as “The German Valentino” and his happy marriage at the age of 50 to Sara Haardt, who, despite a fatal illness, refused to become a victim and earned his deepest love. The book discusses his friendships, especially his complicated but stimulating partnership with the famed theater critic George Jean Nathan. Rodgers vividly recreates Mencken’s era: the glittering tapestry…[more]

Book:The People's Tycoon

The People's Tycoon: Henry Ford and the American Century

Steven Watts

Henry Ford, a major architect of modern America, has lived on in the imagination of his fellow citizens as an enduring figure of fascination, an inimitable individual, a controversial personality, and a social visionary from the moment his Model T brought the automobile to the masses and triggered the consumer revolution. But never before has his outsized genius been brought to life so vividly as by Steven Watts in this major new biography. Watts, the author of the much acclaimed The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life, has produced a superbly researched study of a man who was a bundle of contradictions.

Ford was the entrepreneur who first made the automobile affordable but who grew skeptical of consumerism’s corrosive impact on moral values, an employer who insisted on a living wage for his workers but stridently opposed unions, who established the assembly line but worried about its effect on the work ethic, who welcomed African Americans to his company in the age of Jim…[more]

Book:Team of Rivals

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago. When Lincoln emerged as the victor, his rivals were dismayed and angry.

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, each had energetically sought the presidency as the conflict over slavery was leading inexorably to secession and civil war. That Lincoln succeeded, Goodwin demonstrates, was the result of a character that had been forged…[more]

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