I’m a longtime fan of British author and journalist Brenda Maddox, who has won many prizes for her biographies of Nora Joyce, Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, and others.  Readers will be captivated by GEORGE ELIOT IN LOVE (Palgrave Macmillan, $25), her new portrait of Marian Evans (the pen name of George Eliot). Described by Henry James as “horse-faced” and “magnificently ugly,” Eliot found unexpected deep happiness and companionship in 24 years of co-habitation with the legally married George Lewes, a member of London’s literary avant-garde.  Lewes’s emotional support was so great that Eliot never wrote before she met him or after he died.  Her royalties were staggering, the equivalent of $400,000 for her second novel, The Mill on the Floss, but by the laws of the day, the money belonged to Lewes, not Evans.

George Eliot in Love Cover Image
ISBN: 9780230105188
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Palgrave MacMillan - September 28th, 2010

Sarah Bakewell borrows Montaigne’s own personable, anecdotal approach for her sparkling treatise on the master essayist’s life and work. HOW TO LIVE (Other Press, $25) is the matter under investigation and Bakewell, author of two previous biographies and former curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library, examines it from 20 different perspectives (or 21, given the nearly 60 illustrations), each one integral to Montaigne’s thought and experience. Starting with how to survive the death of a loved one, Montaigne determined that “death is only a few bad moments at the end of life,” and set about the greater challenge of living.  Combining elements from the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics, Montaigne developed a free-ranging philosophy based not on abstractions and ideals but on daily life and fallible humanity. Always curious, open to any and all perspectives, affable, and eager for conversation, Montaigne in his essays conveys to the reader “the feeling of meeting a real person across the centuries”; Bakewell, in this vivid profile, does the same.

How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590514252
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Other Press (NY) - October 19th, 2010

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Cover Image
ISBN: 9781590514832
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Other Press - September 20th, 2011

The formidable Edwidge Danticat has won awards for her novels, short stories, and memoirs, and all of these gifts are on display in the powerful essays of CREATE DANGEROUSLY (Princeton Univ., $19.95). Each piece in this collection illuminates a corner of Danticat’s native Haiti and the Haitian diaspora, from the violent regime of “Papa Doc” Duvalier to the devastating earthquake of January 2010. In particular, Danticat highlights those “dangerous creators” who struggle to produce relevant art in the face of exile, crisis, or oppression. Her own searing blend of journalism, memoir, history, and criticism suggests that no single genre is up to such a task.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (Toni Morrison Lecture) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780691140186
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Princeton University Press - September 19th, 2010

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307946430
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Vintage - September 20th, 2011