Brian, Denis 1923-

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BRIAN, Denis 1923-

PERSONAL: Born December 11, 1923, in Cardiff, Wales; son of Edward David and Edith Anne (Pratt) Brian; married Martine Kisray, 1961; children: Danielle Gilda Anne. Education: Studied at University of Southampton, 1941-42, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, 1948-50, and Columbia University, 1958-60. Politics: Liberal. Religion: "Openminded."

ADDRESSES: Agent—Writers Literary Agency, Bancroft Hotel, West 72nd St., New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Biographer, journalist, and actor. Irish News Service, reporter in London, England, 1939-41; actor, playwright, and stuntman in England, 1951-57; freelance writer, beginning 1958; worked as a literary agent, 1960-62. Military service: Royal Air Force, 1942-46; became flight lieutenant.

WRITINGS:

Science of Crime Detection, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1960.

The Love Minded (novel), Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1968.

Tallulah, Darling, Pyramid, 1972.

Murderers and Other Friendly People: The Public and Private Worlds of Interviewers, McGraw (New York, NY), 1972.

Jeane Dixon: The Witnesses, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1976.

The Enchanted Voyager: The Life of J. B. Rhine, an Authorized Biography, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1982.

The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him, Grove Press (New York, NY), 1988, published as The Faces of Hemingway: Intimate Portraits of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him, Grafton (London, England), 1988.

Fair Game: What Biographers Don't Tell You, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1994.

Genius Talk: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1995; published as The Voice of Genius: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries, Perseus Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 2000.

Einstein: A Life, Wiley (New York, NY), 1996.

Pulitzer: A Life, Wiley (New York, NY), 2001.

Also author of plays All Slightly Sane, Men Alone, The Linsey Report, and Hunter's Moon. Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Spectator, Weekend, Scholastic, Esquire, and Critics Guide.

SIDELIGHTS: As a biographer, Denis Brian has set his sights on those whose stars shone brightly in the first half of the twentieth century. After publishing the life stories of actor Tallulah Bankhead, psychic Jeane Dixon, and writer Ernest Hemingway, Brian produced a pair of biographies focusing on two men whose names are virtually synonymous with their fields of expertise.

In Einstein: A Life, Brian "concentrates on Einstein the person," according to Don Howard of Science. German-born Albert Einstein, who later became a fixture at Princeton University, has entered the public consciousness as a symbol of all that is bright and inquisitive about the study of science. However, apart from his genius, Einstein led a life Brian describes as "full of triumphs and tragic ironies." The biographer found in Einstein a "humanist who showed compassion and concern for the children of strangers [but] neglected his own sons and kept the existence of his first, illegitimate child a secret." Sophia Yancopoulos, in a New Leader review, commented that while Brian "deftly limns public controversies Einstein became embroiled in, he does not quite fulfill his promise to plumb the 'private life, the earthbound Einstein.' True, he touches on some profoundly painful personal matters....Butthe reader is left without a full exploration of what may have been the scientist's single most important relationship—his first marriage" to Mileva Meric.

While some critics credited the volume for its readability, others criticized it for its structure and content. In his Science review, Howard faulted Brian for "[telling] us virtually nothing that is not already well known in the literature, aside from a few quite unsensational stories gleaned from Princeton acquaintances." Owen Gingerich, writing for Historian, echoed the views of other critics when he cited the vast amount of personal detail Brian provides—"to be reminded for the fourth time that Einstein's obsession with simplicity meant that he didn't wear socks can become a little tedious." Gingerich also characterized the readability of the work as "first rate," while in Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor noted that Brian has undertaken "a worthy endeavor" in writing Einstein. To a Publishers Weekly contributor, the biography, while hampered by "awkward paragraph transitions," still stands out as a "genial and judicious" account of the scientist's life.

Brian's next subject was Joseph Pulitzer, the man who revolutionized the newspaper business at the turn of the twentieth century. An immigrant from Hungary, Pulitzer overcame a language barrier to begin his journalism career in St. Louis, where he eventually took over that city's flagship paper, the Post-Dispatch. New York beckoned him, however. Pulitzer moved east and expanded his empire as publisher of the New York World, in its day "perhaps the planet's most powerful paper," according to Harry Levins in a Post-Dispatch article.

Pulitzer's regime was characterized by the publisher's penchant for sensational stories, startling headlines—"How Babies Are Baked" led a story on a citywide heat wave—and hard-hitting editorials. Indeed, Pulitzer pulled no punches in making his newspapers the most widely read in their respective cities. He "undertook trust-busting campaigns and uncovered government corruptions," commented Vanessa Bush in Booklist. Bush called Brian's account one that "captures the amazing verve of an exciting period in American politics and journalism." Carl Sessions Stepp, in an assessment for American Journalism Review, remarked on Brian's introductory comments, wherein the biographer compared his subject to Einstein, William Shakespeare, and Winston Churchill, and questioned whether Pulitzer lived up to such lofty comparisons. Stepp went on to note that the biography "isn't very analytical and never develops an orderly convincing brief comparing Pulitzer to other editors....It leaves a trail of crumbs and clues of insight into great editing, but readers must detect and assemble the case on their own." However, Stepp added, "Pulitzer may or may not be history's top editor, but he lived a fascinating, action-packed life full of daring, drive and drama, and Brian delivers an immensely readable story."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Journalism Review, December, 2001, Carl Sessions Stepp, review of Pulitzer: A Life, p. 63.

Antioch Review, winter, 1988, review of The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Ernest Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him, p. 122.

Atlantic, February, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 86.

Booklist, April 15, 1982, review of The Enchanted Voyager: The Life of J. B. Rhine, an Authorized Biography, p. 1046; May 1, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Einstein: A Life, p. 1480; September 15, 2001, Vanessa Bush, review of Pulitzer, p. 166.

Book Report, September-October, 1996, Joyce Fisher, review of Einstein, p. 46.

Bookwatch, June, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 7.

Choice, April, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 1240; May, 1995, R. F. Cayton, review of Fair Game: What Biographers Don't Tell You, p. 1444; April, 1996, C. G. Wood, review of Genius Talk: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries, p. 1329; January, 1997, review of Einstein, p. 814.

Columbia Journalism Review, November-December, 2001, Richard Norton Smith, review of Pulitzer, p. 150.

Fate, March, 1982, Martin Ebon, review of The Enchanted Voyager, p. 96.

Guardian Weekly, January 11, 1981, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 22.

Historian, spring, 1998, Owen Gingerich, review of Einstein, p. 662.

Journal of American History, December, 1988, Marcus Klein, review of The True Gen, p. 994.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1980, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 613; February 15, 1982, review of The Enchanted Voyager, p. 243; November 1, 1987, review of The True Gen, p. 1551; September 1, 1995, review of Genius Talk, p. 1237; March 15, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 415; July 15, 2001, review of Pulitzer, p. 990.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, September, 1989, review of The True Gen, p. 30.

Library Journal, June 15, 1980, John Smothers, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 1405; April 1, 1982, review of The Enchanted Voyager, p. 46; January, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 86; November 1, 1989, review of The True Gen, p. 116; April 15, 1996, Gregg Sapp, review of Einstein, p. 9; August, 2001, Robert Nardini, review of Pulitzer, p. 122.

London Review of Books, December 11, 1997, review of Einstein, p. 36.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 14, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 10; July 14, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 3.

Modern Fiction Studies, winter, 1988 W. J. Stuckey, review of The True Gen, p. 621.

Natural History, August, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 14.

New Leader, May 6, 1996, Sophia Yancopoulos, review of Einstein, p. 20.

New Realities, July, 1982, Michael Ballatine, review of The Enchanted Voyager, p. 46.

New Yorker, March 18, 1996, review of Genius Talk, p. 108.

New York Times, January 8, 1988, Herbert Mitgang, review of The True Gen, p. C32.

New York Times Book Review, June 29, 1980, Charlotte Curtis, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 9; February 7, 1988, Allen Josephs, review of The True Gen, p. 23; June 4, 1989, review of The True Gen, p. 34.

Observer (London, England), December 2, 2001, review of Pulitzer, p. 16.

Publishers Weekly, May 9, 1980, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 49; January 15, 1988, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The True Gen, p. 83; October 3, 1994, review of Fair Game, p. 60; March 4, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 40; August 20, 2001, review of Pulitzer, p. 66.

Punch, May 6 1981, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 724.

Quill & Quire, April, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 29.

San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 1996, Frederic Golden, "Making Einstein Relatively Sympathetic Again," p. 14.

Science, November 14, 1997, Don Howard, review of Einstein, p. 1241.

Science Books and Films, November, 1982, review of The Enchanted Voyager, p. 87; May, 1996, review of Genius Talk, p. 107.

Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review, September, 1982, review of The Enchanted Voyager, p. 9.

Science Teacher, May, 1996, Salvatore Tocci, review of Genius Talk, p. 60.

SciTech Book News, December, 1995, review of Genius Talk, p. 5.

Sewanee Review, summer, 1988, James Cox, review of The True Gen, p. 511.

Southern Review, spring, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 451.

Spectator, January 31, 1981, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 20; December 14, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 68.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 22, 2001, Harry Levins, "New Biography Defines Pulitzer Down to the Last Detail," p. D3.

Sunday Telegraph (London, England), November 11, 2001, Christopher Taylor, "A Prize Pressman."

Times Literary Supplement, July 19, 1996, Alexander Masters, review of Einstein, p. 30; April 26, 2002, A. J. Sherman, "Prophet on a Yacht," p. 12.

Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2002, Wladyslaw Pleszczynski, "What He Pilloried, What He Published, What He Prized," p. A16.

Washington Post Book World, July 27, 1980, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 4; July 28, 1996, review of Einstein, p. 4; November 18, 2001, review of Pulitzer, p. 6.

Wilson Library Bulletin, March, 1988, review of The True Gen, p. 62; May, 1981, Judith Trojan, review of Tallulah, Darling, p. 695.*