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Pulitzer: A Life 1st Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471332008
ISBN-10: 0471332003
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Editorial Reviews

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.
NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE



Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (September 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471332003
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471332008
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,327,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is only upon reaching the very last page of this 395 page biography that the reader comes to understand why this portrait of Pulitzer is so disappointing and, frankly, uncomfortable to read. There, the author cites as one of his sources, a PhD thesis from the 1940s which drew upon an interview with Mr. Pulitzer's aging valet. This interview. pursued at the urging of Pulitzer's son, revealed, apparently for the first time, Pulitzer's virtually disabling depression, the havoc it wreaked on the management of his papers and the misery it brought to his family. If one strips away the "eccentricities" catalogued in exhaustive detail by the author one is left with a narrative that is hardly insightful or illuminating. Like Mr. Pulitzer's beleaguered hirelings and pathetic and emotionally abused family members, the author seems to struggle to divine brilliance in every move of this isolated and miserable man. That Pulitzer and his "World" transformed and empowered the newspaper business at the turn of the last century is without question and the author provides a somewhat lively and entertaining picture of that business in those days. However, by asking the us to bear with Pulitzer through page after page of troubling and, often, psychotic behavior, the author imparts no more than the conventional appreciation of the proverbial "thin line between genius and madness." The reader comes to suspect that the key to the success of the "World" may actually have derived from the triumph of the genius of others over Pulitzer's madness; a test of this hypothesis requires more richly researched characterizations of the editors and reporters who labored beneath the Dome than the author has produced.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
The writing is clear and the narrative of his life is straightforward, if plodding at times (especially regarding his later life). The descriptions of Pulitzer's time in St. Louis and his earliest years in New York City are the most interesting parts of the book, with excellent anecdotes showing the rough and tumble world of newspapers in the mid 19th century. Once he becomes seriously debilitated from gradually losing his sight and an unexplained (psychosomatic?) illness in which even clinking silverware on teeth apparently caused unbearable headaches and pain, the book slows down in places.

The latter part also increasingly shows the largely uncritical approach the author takes toward Pulitzer. Given his apparently tyrannical personality and the consequences for employees and family, it feels as if the repercussions of these bad traits are mostly glossed over. Pulitzer's extreme aversion to loud sounds apparently didn't extend to his own voice, for example, as he would go into frequent rages and tantrums at the slightest thing. Pulitzer's claims to stand up for the common man also go largely unquestioned, even when times are mentioned of him directing editorial content to help his wealthy friends. If he was so concerned about the common man, it seems he would have treated his employees better and paid them more, as Hearst made frequent raids on his staff and hired them away.

The book gives a good overall view of his life and leaves the reader with some memorable images of the man, but a more critical perspective on him and how his life, business, and personality affected the newspaper industry would have made this book much better.
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By A Customer on September 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This well-written, detailed biography is fascinating. This book, on Joseph Pulitzer, gives the reader a complete view of his life, his work, and his rise to power. Filled with details on his pioneering thoughts and practices, you'll see why Pulitzer's influence is still felt today. For anyone interested in publishing history and journalism, you won't want to miss this book!
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Format: Hardcover
It is only upon reaching the very last page of this 395 page biography that the reader comes to understand why this portrait of Pulitzer is so disappointing and, frankly, uncomfortable to read. There, the author cites as one of his sources, a PhD thesis from the 1940s which drew upon an interview with Mr. Pulitzer's aging valet. This interview. pursued at the urging of Pulitzer's son, revealed, apparently for the first time, Pulitzer's virtually disabling depression, the havoc it wreaked on the management of his papers and the misery it brought to his family. If one strips away the "eccentricities" catalogued in exhaustive detail by the author one is left with a narrative that is hardly insightful or illuminating. Like Mr. Pulitzer's beleaguered hirelings and pathetic and emotionally abused family members, the author seems to struggle to divine brilliance in every move of this isolated and miserable man. That Pulitzer and his "World" transformed and empowered the newspaper business at the turn of the last century is without question and the author provides a somewhat lively and entertaining picture of that business in those days. Hpwever, by asking the us to bear with Pulitzer through page after page of troubling and, often, psychotic behavior, the author imparts no more than the conventional appreciation of the proverbial "thin line between genius and madness." The reader comes to suspect that the key to the success of the "World" may actually have derived from the triumph of the genius of others over Pulitzer's madness; a test of this hypothesis requires more richly researched characterizations of the editors and reporters who labored beneath the Dome than the author has produced.Read more ›
Comment 1 of 2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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