Allen, Brooke 1956-
Allen, Brooke 1956-
PERSONAL: Born 1956; daughter of Lewis M. (a theatrical producer and film producer) and Jay Presson Allen (a playwright and screenwriter); married Peter Aaron (an architectural photographer), September 8, 1992. Education: University of Virginia, B.A., 1979; Columbia University, M.A., Ph.D., 1993.
CAREER: Writer and literary critic. Served as managing editor of Grand Street magazine.
Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powers in Uncertain Times, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2003.
Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2004.
Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers, Ivan R. Dee (Chicago, IL), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including the New York Times Book Review, New Criterion, and Atlantic Monthly.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer and literary critic Brooke Allen has authored books of literary criticism and also written about the early religious beliefs of America’s founding fathers. In Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powers in Uncertain Times, Allen presents a series of essays profiling twentieth-century writers such as Colette, Virginia Woolf, H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton, Henry James, James Baldwin, Grace Paley, and others. Writing in Booklist, Donna Seaman noted that the author “eschews an excessively text-oriented approach and writes out of passion and with panache.” Library Journal contributor Charles C. Nash wrote that “Allen brings forth a wealth of information to support her argument that the last century produced ‘a wide variety of odd attitudes.’”
Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior is another collection of literary essays that combines biography and criticism to delve into the lives and works of famous authors who were also known for their dysfunctional and often painful lives. Allen includes essays on a wide range of authors, from Laurence Sterne, Hans Christian Andersen, and Bram Stoker to Sinclair Lewis and William Saroyan. Seaman, writing again in Booklist, called the collection “saucy and shrewd,” adding that Allen “matches literary erudition with a lithe yet pithy writing style.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to Artistic License as “bold criticism from a knowledgeable, bright writer who would rather declare than question, speculate, or wonder.” Robin Imhof wrote in the Library Journal that “Allen’s essays both entertain and illuminate.”
Allen turns her attention from literary criticism to political and religious matters in Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers. Focusing on the religious beliefs of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, Allen presents her case that none were devout Christians, some were agnostics, and nearly all of them stressed the importance of the separation of church and state and the need to keep religion out of politics. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Christopher Hitchens commented that Allen “is especially interesting on the extent to which the Founders felt obliged to keep their doubts on religion to themselves.” Hitchens also noted: “In a first-class closing chapter on the intellectual and scientific world that shaped the Framers, Allen discusses the wide influence then exerted by great humanist thinkers like Hume, Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke, Locke, and Voltaire.” In a review in the Library Journal, D.L. Davey wrote that the author “explicitly warns that the Enlightened ideals on which this country was founded are now under grave threat.” George F. Will commented in the New York Times:“Her conviction is well documented, exuberantly argued and quite persuasive.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to Moral Minority as “substantial and scholarly.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, September 15, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powersin Uncertain Times, p. 193; September 15, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of Artistic License: Three Centuries of Good Writing and Bad Behavior, p. 193.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2004, review of Artistic License, p. 609; June 15, 2006, review of Moral Minority: Our Skeptical Founding Fathers, p. 607.
Library Journal, August, 2003, Charles C. Nash, review of Twentieth-Century Attitudes, p. 81; August, 2004, Robin Imhof, review of Artistic License, p. 75; August 1, 2006, D.L. Davey, “Q&A: Brooke Allen,” p. 100; August 1, 2006, D.L. Davey, review of Moral Minority, p. 100.
New York Times, September 13, 1992, “Weddings; Brooke Allen, Peter Aaron”; October 22, 2006, George F. Will, review of Moral Minority.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2006, review of Moral Minority.
Weekly Standard, December 11, 2006, Christopher Hitchens, review of Moral Minority.