Beran, Michael Knox 1966-
BERAN, Michael Knox 1966-
ADDRESSES: Home—Westchester County, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Free Press, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
CAREER: Attorney and writer.
The Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Jefferson's Demons: Portrait of a Restless Mind, Free Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, National Review, and George; City Journal, contributing editor.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael Knox Beran's first book was published in conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of the death of its subject. The Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy is Beran's examination of the life and politics of the attorney general and brother of slain president John F. Kennedy.
The enigmatic Robert F. Kennedy, who was also assassinated before he could reach his potential, was, claims Beran, much more conservative-leaning than the rest of the Kennedys; for example, Bobby Kennedy questioned the use of welfare programs to fight poverty, considering this route dehumanizing to the recipients. As Beran writes, Kennedy lost two brothers, a sister, and a brother-in-law to violent deaths. He understood suffering and was empathetic toward those in the underclass who were unable to overcome obstacles to success. But, according to Beran, Kennedy believed that change begins with the individual and the community, and felt that participation in such projects as the renewal of ghetto neighborhoods is a necessity for real success.
George F. Will wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "Beran is at his considerable best in tracing Kennedy's path to what Beran thinks was his disillusionment with a liberalism that had become 'a curiously regressive phenomenon: though it ostensibly celebrated the Forgotten Man, it in fact trivialized and diminished him.'" "If Beran reads Kennedy's career correctly," added Will, "what was at least latent in his thinking was indeed a harbinger of today's problematic emphasis on therapeutic government's supposed duty to deliver 'values' as well as the mail. That this ambitious agenda for government is central to today's conservatism … is among the paradoxes of contemporary politics." Will concluded by saying that "Beran's slender meditation on Kennedy's truncated life has an unusually high ratio of provocations per page. Some readers will angrily throw it across the room. But they will retrieve it, and continue reading, avidly."
A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that Beran's Jefferson's Demons: Portrait of a Restless Mind "merits company with the best recent works about the man." Beran studies Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and a man who found inspiration in poetry and nature. A large portion of the volume is devoted to documenting Jefferson's time in France, his unfulfilled love for Maria Cosway, and his wanderings about Europe as he attempted to recover from this failed romance.
Library Journal contributor Robert Flatley noted that Jefferson's exposure to the discord between European aristocracy and the peasant class, as well as to European culture, food, wine, literature, and architecture, had "a profound influence on his philosophy and helped shape his vision of an idealized egalitarian republic." According to Beran, though, Jefferson "often championed [these ideas] in word but not in action." Beran notes that Jefferson's greatest single act as president was the Louisiana Purchase, which the author calls unconstitutional.
History reviewer Charles H. Lippy wrote that Beran "argues that throughout life, Jefferson moved between depression and stunning achievement, struggling to heed inner voices informed by the ancients…. Be ran provides an enjoyable Romantic reflection on how complex a soul the sage of Monticello remains."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 1998, review of The Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End of American Aristocracy, p. 1591; October 1, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of Jefferson's Demons: Portrait of a Restless Mind, p. 295.
Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1998, Paul Galloway, review of The Last Patrician, "Tempo," p. 1.
First Things, March, 2004, Wilfred M. McClay, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 43.
History, winter, 2004, Charles H. Lippy, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 58.
Library Journal, September 15, 2003, Robert Flatley, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 68.
New York Times Book Review, May 24, 1998, George F. Will, review of The Last Patrician, p. 5.
Publishers Weekly, July 28, 2003, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 88.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Myron A. Marty, review of The Last Patrician, p. D5.*