Barron, James 1954-
Barron, James 1954-
(James Turman Barron)
PERSONAL: Born December 25, 1954, in Washington, DC; son of James Pressley and Leirona Faith Barron; married Jane-Iris Farhi, April 1, 1995. Education: Princeton University, B.A., 1977. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Playing the piano.
CAREER: New York Times, New York, NY, copy person, 1977-78, research assistant, 1978-79, reporter, 1979—, acting editor of Living section, 1996-97, author of “Public Lives” column, 1998-2001, author of “Boldface Names” column, 2001-02; WQXR-FM, New York, NY, broadcast correspondent, 1987; WQEW-AM, New York, NY, broadcast correspondent, 1992-98.
MEMBER: Deadline Club (vice president, 1995-99), Princeton Club.
(And narrator) Page One (television documentary), Discovery Times Channel, 2005.
Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand, Times Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Also contributor to books.
SIDELIGHTS: A longtime reporter and columnist for the New York Times, James Barron used a series of articles he wrote for the newspaper as the basis for his first book, Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand. Barron is himself an amateur pianist, so he had a natural interest in his subject. The center of the book is the story of a single piano as it makes its way, over eleven months, from a pile of wooden planks to the finished instrument ready for its debut at a concert hall at the hands of a master musician. Interspersed with this journey is information about the Steinway company itself and interviews with the people who assemble the pianos and run the company. Reviewing the book in the Los Angeles Times, Robert Lloyd felt that, although Piano contains interesting information, the author’s reportorial style distances the reader from the subject, making it seem less personal. As Lloyd pointed out, Barron, as a pianist, could easily have expressed a more personal view of what it is like to play one of the most famous instruments in the world, yet the author remains objective. “Even as he doggedly anthropomorphizes his subject,” related Lloyd, “he is never able to bring his protagonist alive. As a conscientious reporter, he has taken himself out of the picture and, although this may be good newspaper style, it doesn’t work here.” The critic noted that the “historical passages are largely well told,” though the author relies on secondary sources for this information, and concluded that “there’s much of interest here, nevertheless, in this sometimes surprising tale of the humble beginnings of a musical aristocrat.” Barry Zaslow, writing for Library Journal, was more appreciative of Barron’s efforts, calling Piano“an informative and amusing” work that has a “flowing style and [conveys] evident affection for the material.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, August 1, 2006, Donna Chavez, review of Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand, p. 24.
Library Journal, June 15, 2006, Barry Zaslow, review of Piano, p. 70.
Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2006, Robert Lloyd, “A Book in 88 Keys,” review of Piano.
Reference & Research Book News, November, 2006, review of Piano.*