From Publishers Weekly
Without question, newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer lived a notable life. Born in 1847 in Hungary, he traveled to the U.S. as a teenager to fight for pay in the Civil War. He learned English, became a lawyer, got involved in politics and later in journalism. He bought the struggling St. Louis Post-Dispatch, then turned the New York World into a superb daily newspaper by upholding the following fool-proof tenet: "cater to the masses and earn their trust." By the time of his death in 1911, Pulitzer had achieved global fame. Unfortunately, Brian delivers a largely warmed-over version of Pulitzer's life. In the acknowledgments, Brian (biographer of J.B. Rhine, Ernest Hemingway and Albert Einstein) thanks previous chroniclers of Pulitzer's life. If Brian's study contains anything of significance missed by those biographers, it is well hidden. The endnotes only occasionally mention primary documents (such as the many extant letters to and from Pulitzer), citing instead, over and over, earlier books about the publisher. Brian details Pulitzer's big newspaper stories, such as "A Dastard's Deed: Cold-Blooded Treachery at Last Conquers Jesse James," concerning the official price on James's head and the confidante who betrayed him. Though interesting, the rehashed news stories don't make for a meaty biography. In 1994, Brian published a book about the life-writing craft that is relentlessly critical of prominent biographers; the title was Fair Game: What Biographers Don't Tell You. Here, Brian fails to tell readers why they should read this highly derivative biography.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Joseph Pulitzer emigrated to the United States from his native Hungary in 1864 for a bounty offered by Union army recruiters. Discharged in 1865, he made his way to St. Louis, where with little command of English at the start, he got involved in local politics, entered the newspaper business, and eventually gained control of the Post-Dispatch. In 1883, he bought the New York World, then revolutionized American journalism and became wealthy through his sensational approach to the news and his grasp of the entertainment role of newspapers. Highly eccentric, a near-invalid for much of his life, Pulitzer is a marvelous subject for biography. Yet Brian, author of Einstein: A Life and other biographical works, has not done a marvelous job with his material. Readers will find a patchy narrative, which too often treats Pulitzer simply as a character, without insight into his person or perspective on his era. W.A. Swanberg's Pulitzer (1967) is a better book, and David Nasaw's biography of Pulitzer's great contemporary and rival, The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst (LJ 6/1/00), a much better book. An optional purchase for journalism collections. Robert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.