Beran, Michael Knox 1966–
Beran, Michael Knox 1966–
Born 1966, in Dallas, TX; married Mary Elizabeth Ward (a veterinarian), 1996; children: one daughter. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1988; Cambridge University, M.Phil., 1990; Yale University, J.D., 1993.
Home—Westchester County, NY. Agent—Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency, 27 W. 20th St., Ste. 1003, New York, NY 10011.
Attorney and writer. Davis Polk & Wardwell, New York, NY, associate.
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.
Forge of Empires, 1861-1871: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and the World They Made, Free Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, National Review, and George.
Author of various articles and contributing editor for City Journal (New York, NY).
Michael Knox Beran's first book was published in conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of the death of its subject. The Last Patrician: BobbyKennedy and the End of American Aristocracy is Beran's examination of the life and politics of Robert F. ("Bobby") Kennedy, the attorney general and brother of slain President John F. Kennedy.
Beran claims that the enigmatic Bobby Kennedy, assassinated before he could reach his potential, was much more conservative-leaning than the rest of the Kennedys. For example, he questioned the use of welfare programs to fight poverty, considering this route to be 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 people in the lower class who were unable to overcome obstacles to success. However, 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, a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, wrote 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, 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, "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 commented that 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…. Beran provides an enjoyable Romantic reflection on how complex a soul the sage of Monticello remains."
Similar praise greeted publication of Beran's Forge of Empires, 1861-1871: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and the World They Made. The book examines the vision and achievements of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and Russian czar Alexander II, contemporaries who shaped the future not only of their respective countries, but of the world. Lincoln, as Beran shows, was a unifier who ended slavery in the United States and moved the country toward a modern and more democratic future. Similarly, von Bismarck united the various German states into a powerful empire. Also reform-minded, Alexander II liberated Russia's serfs; his plan, however, was poorly thought out and did not alleviate the social problems it was intended to address. As Booklist reviewer Jay Freeman noted, the history of this decade is "tinged with sadness and dashed hopes." The assassinations of Lincoln and Alexander II set back their countries' progressive trajectories, as did von Bismarck's marginalization by German Emperor Wilhelm II.
In a National Review article, Arthur W. Herman stated that Beran's book contains "grim lessons … for the future of the world," identifying the book's real theme as "blood: the blood that a people has to pay now to be free, or pay later in much greater quantities in order to remain slaves." Foreign Affairs contributor Walter Russell Meade deemed the book worthy of "the close attention of every student of American affairs and of every working historian."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 1998, Eric Robbins, review of The Last Patrician: Bobby Kennedy and the End ofAmerican Aristocracy, p. 1591; October 1, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of Jefferson's Demons: Portrait of a Restless Mind, p. 295; October 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871: Three Revolutionary Statesmen and the World They Made, p. 18.
Chicago Tribune, June 5, 1998, Paul Galloway, review of The Last Patrician, p. 1.
Civil War Times, February, 2008, Jon Guttman, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871, p. 62.
First Things, March, 2004, Wilfred M. McClay, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 43.
Foreign Affairs, March 1, 2008, Walter Russell Mead, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871.
History, winter, 2004, Charles H. Lippy, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 58.
Journal of American History, September, 2004, Andrew Burstein, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 611.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1998, review of The Last Patrician, p. 456; August 15, 2003, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 1051; August 1, 2007, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871.
Library Journal, April 15, 1998, review of The Last Patrician, p. 98; September 15, 2003, Robert Flatley, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 68.
National Review, November 24, 2003, Sarah A. Bramwell, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 48; December 31, 2007, Arthur W. Herman, "Parallel Lives and Legacies," review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871, p. 42.
New York Times, June 23, 1996, "Weddings: Mary E. Ward, Michael K. Beran," biographical information about the author.
New York Times Book Review, May 24, 1998, George F. Will, review of The Last Patrician, p. 5; December 14, 2003, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 10.
Publishers Weekly, April 20, 1998, review of The Last Patrician, p. 57; July 28, 2003, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 88; August 20, 2007, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871, p. 62.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Myron A. Marty, review of The Last Patrician, p. D5.
Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2003, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. D8.
Washington Post Book World, November 16, 2003, review of Jefferson's Demons, p. 5.
Washington Times, January 6, 2008, Claude R. Marx, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (June 27, 2008), Dave Roy, review of Forge of Empires, 1861-1871.