Brodsky, Alyn 1928-
BRODSKY, Alyn 1928-
Born 1928. Education: University of Miami, B.A. (music and history), Sorbonne, Ph.D. (history).
Home—1500 Bay Rd., Miami Beach, FL 33139-3252. Agent—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.
Writer, historian, and lecturer on history and classical music. Former combat correspondent in Korea and features writer in Tokyo for Stars & Stripes, press attaché for the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay, editor of weekly newspapers, editorial director of encyclopedias, book critic and columnist for U.S. newspapers.
The Kings Depart: A Saga of the Empire Judah Maccabee Created and His Heirs Destroyed, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1974.
Madame Lynch and Friend: The True Account of an Irish Adventuress and the Dictator of Paraguay, Who Destroyed That American Nation, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1975.
Imperial Charade: A Biography of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, Nineteenth-Century Europe's Most Successful Adventurers, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1978.
Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Great Mayor: Fiorello La Guardia and the Making of the City of New York, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Benjamin Rush: Patriot and Physician, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.
A keen and witty eye for history is a distinctive element of Alyn Brodsky's writings. The Newark, New Jersey, native graduated from the University of Miami with degrees in history and music. After college, Brodsky was a war correspondent in Korea and wrote in Japan. Later in his career, Brodsky was a press attachée in Paraguay and worked as an editor in the Midwest before moving to New York in the 1950s. His unique combination of career moves is captured in Brodsky's books.
In The Kings Depart: A Saga of the Empire Judah Maccabee Created and His Heirs Destroyed, Brodsky examines the rise and fall of the second Jewish commonwealth following their return from exile in 538 B.C. Forming a view that the Maccabees sought to Judaize Palestine in addition to gain independence, Brodsky injects everything from personal opinion to humor in defending his case. While delivering a history lesson on the past, Brodsky brings perspective to current issues in the Middle East. The reviewer in Booklist recognized that "the political, social, and military events that shaped the era, the rise of dominant opposition leaders, as well as the divergence of religious observation in the combatant countries are accorded careful if critical attention to clarify roles each played in the outcome whose implications remain viable to the present."
Brodsky's past work in Paraguay adds an element of interest to Madame Lynch and Friend: The True Account of an Irish Adventuress and the Dictator of Paraguay, Who Destroyed That American Nation. It is a story of the late nineteenth century in which an Irish courtesan, Eliza Lynch, enters a marriage at age fifteen with a French officer. It did not last, and Lynch eventually becomes the mistress to the heir of the throne of Paraguay, the dictator Francisco Solane López. Both cursed by enormous egos, the duo virtually decimates Paraguay's populace with a devastating six-year war against neighboring countries Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Lynch leaves the country upon the death of the dictator, and she dies in poverty in France. Malcolm Deas of the Times Literary Supplement felt the book's "scant and unreliable evidence is relentlessly interpreted to show the dictator and Madame Lynch in the worst light, from the nasty title to the mean-spirited epilogue."
Other infamous rulers are examined in Imperial Charade: A Biography of Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugénie, Nineteenth-Century Europe's MostSuccessful Adventurers. Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie are a mismatched couple united by the desire to restore the Bonaparte legacy to France. The Empress survives Napoleon after years of corrupt rule, many years featuring incompetent influence by Eugénie when the last Emperor of France falls ill. She lives her final years in exile in England with her friend, Queen Victoria. The contributor from Booklist noted "Brodsky, holder of a doctorate in history from the Sorbonne, is sardonic but shrewdly insightful as he explains how the pair (considering their characters) implausibly came to occupy such exalted positions."
Brodsky looks toward the United States in Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character, a biography of America's only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms in office. While being a leader who held true to his ethics and resisted corruption, Cleveland also bore the stigma of being a father to an illegitimate child and marrying someone nearly thirty years younger than himself. He also bought his way out of service during the Civil War. Jay Freeman of Booklist felt the weight of the many details. "This is a rather solemn, slow-moving biography that frequently gets bogged down in irrelevant details. In his zeal to illustrate Cleveland's virtues, Brodsky is a bit too eager to stress his 'positive' accomplishments." As the lone Democrat to be president between the Civil War and World War I, Cleveland's tenure was marked by his challenging of monopolies and the struggle against land-grabbing elements in the railroad, cattle, and timber industries. The Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "The author justifiably praises our twenty-second/twenty-fourth president as an anti-imperialist who refused to recognize a Hawaiian government set up largely by U.S. planters, yet he concedes that, in foreign affairs, Cleveland's achievements were insignificant." Brodsky makes the argument that Cleveland was the nation's best president in the era between Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. A contributor from Kirkus Reviews concluded the biography was "engaging and persuasively argued … serves both as an excellent introduction to Cleveland and his world, and as a worthy supplement to the scholarship already in existence."
Narrowing his American scope even further, Brodsky focuses on one of the nation's most highly regarded mayors in The Great Mayor: Fiorello La Guardia and the Making of the City of New York. Known primarily as the mayor of New York and the namesake of the city's famous airport, La Guardia also is seen in a long look at the years leading up to his election in 1933. It took eighteen months for Brodsky to write the biography, which includes details about La Guardia's early life as an army brat and a consul in Europe. La Guardia even took time off from being a congressman to serve as a commander of United States air forces during World War I. Sam Roberts of the New York Times recognized the depth of information about La Guardia's experiences before his election as mayor, "The emphasis on the early years is valuable because it helps explain what shaped La Guardia's philosophy." With popularity rivaling that of President Franklin Roosevelt, La Guardia shaped the city of New York through three four-year terms served after spending seven terms in Congress while representing Greenwich Village and East Harlem. La Guardia expanded social services, cleared the slums, constructed parks, and created roads and bridges to completely reshape the look of the city. Through his support of Roosevelt's New Deal, La Guardia, also known as "the Little Flower," was able to secure federal support of the city's continuing financial needs during the Depression. The reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented "Brodsky's admiration for his subject—to whom, he says, New York City owes its present greatness—remains intact, despite the mayor's increasingly authoritarian nature as he consolidated power." The Great Mayor also is critical of La Guardia, however, especially during his difficult third term of office after his national aspirations were derailed. He also was known to disregard civil liberties and to occasionally bully and brag. In Library Journal, William D. Pederson noted "except for an occasional negative comparison to some recent contemporary presidents, this account is balanced, readable, and worthwhile."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 1, 1974, review of The Kings Depart: A Saga of the Empire Judah Maccabee Created and His Heirs Destroyed, p. 355; December 1, 1978, review of Imperial Charade: A Biography of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, Nineteenth-Century Europe's Most Successful Adventurers, p. 596; September 1, 2000, Jay Freeman, review of Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character, p. 60; April 15, 2003, George Cohen, review of The Great Mayor: Fiorello La Guardia and the Making of the City of New York, p. 1444.
Choice, October, 1975, review of The Kings Depart, p. 1019; February 1976, review of Madame Lynch and Friend: The True Account of an Irish Adventuress and the Dictator of Paraguay, Who Destroyed That American Nation, p. 1621; February, 1979, review of Imperial Charade, p. 1712.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1974, review of The Kings Depart, p. 973; August 15, 1975, review of Madame Lynch and Friend, 950; August 15, 1978, review of Imperial Charade, p. 912; August 1, 2000, review of Grover Cleveland, p. 1089; March 15, 2003, review of The Great Mayor, pp. 436-437.
Library Journal, October 1, 1974, review of The Kings Depart, p. 2475; August, 2000, William D. Pederson, review of Grover Cleveland, p. 118; May 1, 2003, William D. Pederson, review of The Great Mayor, pp.128-129.
New York Times Book Review, June 29, 2003, Sam Roberts, review of The Great Mayor.
Publishers Weekly, September 15, 1975, review of Madame Lynch and Friend, p. 48; August 14, 1978, review of Imperial Charade, p. 58; July 17, 2000, review of Grover Cleveland, p. 185; March 31, 2003, review of The Great Mayor, p. 49.
Times Literary Supplement, May 6, 1977, Malcolm Deas, review of Madame Lynch and Friend, p. 544.
Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza,http://www.bhny.com/ (October 24, 2003), book description for The Great Mayor.
Miami Herald Online,http://www.bayarea.com/ (September 18, 2003), book press for The Great Mayor. *