Gaines, James R. 1947–
Gaines, James R. 1947–
Born August 11, 1947, in Dayton, OH; married Leslie Friedman, May 23, 1971 (divorced, 1978); married Pamela Butler, July 19, 1983 (divorced, 1989); married Karen Lipton, February 9, 1992; children: (first marriage) Allison, (third marriage) Nicholas, William, Lillian. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1970.
Journalist. Herald, New York, NY, editor, 1971-72; Saturday Review, New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, associate editor, 1972-73; WNET-13, 51st State, New York, NY, associate editor, 1973-74; Newsweek, New York, NY, associate editor, 1974-76; People, New York, NY, associate editor, 1977-78, senior editor, 1979-82, assistant managing editor, 1982-86, executive editor, 1986-87; managing editor, 1987-89; Life, New York, NY, managing editor and publisher, 1989-92; Time, New York, NY, managing editor, 1993-95; Time, Inc., New York, NY, corporate editor, 1996-97; Travel & Leisure, Boulder, CO, editor-in-chief, 1998; media consultant.
International Federation of the Periodical Press, Council on Foreign Relations, American Historical Association, Anglo-American Press Association, Overseas Press Club.
Wit's End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (New York, NY), 1977.
(Editor) The Lives of the Piano, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (New York, NY), 1981.
Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, Fourth Estate (London, England), 2005.
For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions, Norton (New York, NY), 2007.
James R. Gaines is a former editor at People, Time, and Life, as well as the author of For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions and other nonfiction titles. James W. Seymore, Jr., writing in Entertainment Weekly, called Gaines "a brilliant editor with an aggressive, natural instinct for a story that time and again scooped the competition, beat impossible deadlines, and always delighted readers."
An amateur musician, Gaines published a book on music, The Lives of the Piano, in 1981. An earlier work, Wit's End: Days and Nights of the Algonquin Round Table, was an experiment in cultural history, dealing with the intellectuals, artists, writers, and comedians who were regulars at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, New York, during the early part of the twentieth century. With Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, Gaines "explores the conflict between faith and reason through a fateful meeting between Johann Sebastian Bach and Frederick the Great," stated a reviewer for Maxims News Network. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that Gaines presents "an absorbing cultural history."
Evening in the Palace of Reason describes the ten days in 1747 that the baroque composer Bach spent at the court of Frederick the Great in Potsdam, Prussia, there to be tested in the art of counterpoint and fugue by the much-younger royal. This well-recorded historical event is one of the few instances in Bach's life to be copiously written down; much of the rest of the composer's life is shrouded in mystery, for he kept no diaries, sent few letters, and was recognized as a great composer only long after his death. Gaines uses this meeting between polar opposites to contrast two worldviews: that of the pious, Lutheran Bach and Frederick, a champion of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. That Bach created one of his masterpieces, The Musical Offering, as a result of this testing is, for Gaines, a victory for faith over critical reason. Thus, this personal gamesmanship becomes a metaphor for differing worldviews, and Gaines spends much of his book detailing the lives of both Bach and Frederick, in addition to delving into musical technique.
The two men could hardly have been more different from one another. Bach, sixty-two years old at the time of their meeting, was the father of twenty children, a devout Lutheran, and a humble composer; Frederick, thirty-five years old, had been abused by his authoritarian father but had also been an avid musician since his youth. A king not afraid to take his people to war, Frederick was enjoying a time of peace in 1747. His court was the center of Enlightenment culture, as Frederick was a devotee of French writer Voltaire.
Gaines's work brought differing views from critics. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews found it "an ambitious, if not entirely successful, synthesis," as well as "dazzling but somewhat fractured," but the critic conceded that this history was "composed with a refreshingly non-scholarly flourish." John Leonard, writing in Harper's, also was divided in his assessment of Evening in the Palace of Reason. Likening Gaines's book to "an Italian opera crossed with a medieval morality play," Leonard took issue with Gaines's negative assessment of the supposed "skeptical excesses of the Age of Reason," calling such a critique "the latest in anti-rationalist, original-sinful yadda yadda." Time reviewer Christopher Porterfield likewise had mixed feelings about the book, noting that "much of the material is dauntingly complex, but Gaines works hard to keep his prose accessible and entertaining—sometimes too hard."
Other reviewers had less harsh critiques for Evening in the Palace of Reason. Bich Minh Nguyen, writing in People, called it a "moving portrait of genius and human failure," while Scott D. Paulin of Entertainment Weekly stated that Gaines "maps sweeping cultural history … with dazzling virtuosity." Booklist critic Gilbert Taylor called the book a "marvelous story" and further commented that it is "clever without being frivolous, and explanatory without being effete." Similarly, Larry Lipkis, writing in Library Journal, concluded that Gaines's book was "an enormous pleasure."
In For Liberty and Glory, Gaines explores the complex personal, political, and military relationship between George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette, the French nobleman who played a key role in the American Revolution. "Like France and America," Gaines wrote in an review for the Maxims News Network Web site, "Lafayette and Washington could not have been less alike on the surface—an ebullient rich aristocrat and a battle-toughened frontiersman—but in fact they had a world in common: Both subjects in a monarchy, they were destined for the life of courtiers. In order to change that, they had to change themselves." Gaines also examines the larger historical narrative, finding the American and French revolutionary experiences inseparably linked.
For Liberty and Glory garnered generally strong reviews. According to Legal Times contributor Ted Hirt, Gaines "presents a fascinating portrait of Lafayette, highlighting both his contributions to the American Revolution and his less well-known efforts to achieve for the French people an equivalent freedom from their dependence on monarchy. Gaines effectively contrasts the features of the two revolutions and the roles that George Washington and Lafayette played in them." Evan Thomas, reviewing For Liberty and Glory in Newsweek, similarly noted that the author "writes about the two great republican revolutions of the late 18th century knowingly and, at times, elegantly, though readers may get bogged down in his dense forays into French thought and politics. His portrait of the relentlessly optimistic Lafayette, swept away by the excesses of the French Revolution and driven into prison and exile, is poignant."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment, p. 1127; September 1, 2007, Jay Freeman, review of For Liberty and Glory: Washington, Lafayette, and Their Revolutions, p. 42.
Entertainment Weekly, January 10, 1997, James W. Seymore, Jr., "Gaines and a Loss: Corporate Editor James R. Gaines Says Goodbye after a Singular Career at the Helm of People, Time, and Life," author biography, p. 5; March 18, 2005, Scott D. Paulin, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 74; September 7, 2007, Michelle Kung, review of For Liberty and Glory, p. 85.
Harper's, April, 2005, John Leonard, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 85.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 33; July 15, 2007, review of For Liberty and Glory.
Legal Times, October 29, 2007, Ted Hirt, review of For Liberty and Glory.
Library Journal, February 1, 2005, Larry Lipkis, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 80; September 1, 2007, Bryan Craig, review of For Liberty and Glory, p. 149.
Life, November, 1989, Kate Bonniwell, "Publisher's Note," biography of James R. Gaines, p. 3.
Newsweek, September 3, 2007, Evan Thomas, "When Opposites Attract; Washington and Lafayette Were Oddly Matched, but Joined Forces in the Great, Close-run Fight for Equality and Freedom," review of For Liberty and Glory, p. 66.
People, July 21, 1986, Donald M. Elliman, Jr., "Publisher's Letter," biography of Gaines, p. 2; March 28, 2005, Bich Minh Nguyen, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 50; October 8, 2007, Josh Emmons, review of For Liberty and Glory, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2005, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 53; July 16, 2007, review of For Liberty and Glory, p. 157.
Reference & Research Book News, February, 2008, review of For Liberty and Glory.
Reviewer's Bookwatch, November, 2004, review of Evening in the Palace of Reason.
Spectator, January 8, 2005, Julian Shuckburgh, "King's Gambit Accepted," review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 32.
Time, January 8, 1996, Norman Pearlstine, "To Our Readers," biography of Gaines, p. 16; March 14, 2005, Christopher Porterfield, "Duel at the Tipping Point: A Fascinating Study Says a King's Musical Challenge to Bach Marked the Beginning of Modern Culture," review of Evening in the Palace of Reason, p. 62.
DCMilitary.com,http://www.dcmilitary.com/ (January 17, 2008), Youssef Aboul-Enein, review of For Liberty and Glory.
Maxims News Network Web site,http://www.maximsnews.com/ (July 1, 2008), James R. Gaines, "A Word on How Liberty and Glory Came to Be."