A Look at the National Book Critics Circle Nominees - Biography

The Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2003 | Go to article overview

A Look at the National Book Critics Circle Nominees - Biography


Lyndon Johnson is proving as powerful in print as he was in office. Robert Caro's mammoth third volume about the consummate American politician so dominated the National Book Award ceremony in November that reporters in attendance were writing up their leads before the winner was announced.

Now, "Master of the Senate" has entered its next battlefield: The National Book Critics Circle. Caro has won twice before, but the 24 members of the NBCC board who make the final decision have the benefit of hindsight to help distinguish their choice from the glitzier National Book Award. It's difficult to gauge how that desire for variety will play into their freewheeling deliberations.

Keep an eye on "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?", the first biography of the musical Carter family, by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg. While three of the nominees cover familiar biographical celebrities (Lyndon Johnson, Charles Darwin, Ben Franklin) and the fourth was already nominated for the National Book Award ("The Last American Man"), Zwonitzer's subject has the kind of fresh novelty that could sway committee members still reeling from reams of minutiae about US Senate procedure.

We'll run reviews of the nominees in the four other categories - fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and criticism - over the next four weeks. On Feb. 25, all the nominated authors are invited to read from their work at a public reception at the New School in New York. The winners will be announced the next day. - Ron Charles

CHARLES DARWIN, by Janet Browne, Knopf, $37.50

Darwin spent 20 years working out evidence to support his theory of natural selection, secure in the knowledge that his idea was too radical and the details too arcane for anyone else to have discovered. His closest scientific friends urged him to publish his work, but he dreaded the consequences: public condemnation likely to make Rome's reception of Galileo look friendly. Then one morning in 1858, he received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace, laying out the theory in words that could have been Darwin's own. With Wallace somewhere in the remote rain forest of southeast Asia - weeks away by the fastest steamers - no one would ever have known if Darwin had "lost" that manuscript. So opens the second book of Browne's riveting two-volume biography. In the entire range of intellectual history, it's doubtful there's a moment that tops the Darwin- Wallace collision for human drama. Over the course of these two volumes, we're immersed in the cozy world of Victorian science, that drew from the right schools and belonged to the same clubs. Along the way we come to intimately understand Darwin - a very unmodern man who brought modernity to science. (591 pp.) (Full review Sept. 26, 2001) By Diana Muir

MASTER OF THE SENATE: LYNDON JOHNSON, by Robert Caro, Knopf, $35

Legendary biographer Robert Caro has spent 25 years of his life chronicling Lyndon Baines Johnson's - and he hasn't even gotten to the vice presidency, presidency, and post-presidency yet. This third volume in Caro's award-winning series recounting more of Johnson's ruthlessness, which dominated the second volume. In every sphere of his life, Johnson gathered power humbly; once he had it, he exercised it brutally. But, somehow, as an authoritarian, Johnson made democracy work for the American citizenry. This volume also marks a return to what Caro terms the "bright thread" of Johnson's life: the public-policy changes he helped bring about during his two terms in the US Senate, especially the civil rights improvements. Caro also calls attention to Johnson's genius as a political organizer. Nobody, he argues, has ever wielded legislative power more skillfully - and his history of the Senate shows why. Before Johnson arrived, Caro says, the Senate was a cruel farce, whose deliberations, far from democratic, were governed by seniority. Though the previous two volumes are superb, a newcomer won't be lost by jumping into this painstakingly researched, beautifully written installment. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Look at the National Book Critics Circle Nominees - Biography
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.