Customer Review

May 6, 2007
Regrettably, this biography is seriously flawed, frankly a disgrace, in respect of Henry Crowder and throughout. There is hardly a page in the book without demonstrable error of fact, misrepresentation, unfounded speculation or garbled citation. Columbia University Press were twice alerted that there were problems when an advance proof fell into the present writer's hands two or three months before publication. The Press did not respond. Caroline Weber's New York Times review is foolish in the extreme. Anne Chisholm's 1979 biography remains indispensable. While Gordon has uncovered new material (not about Henry Crowder in which she is particularly deficient) she has not been able to make sense of it. The true story of Crowder is told in the book+CD Listening for Henry Crowder scheduled fall 2007.

Although readers must judge for themselves, it is incumbent upon someone or other who has studied some of the particulars to point out the book's shortcomings, which are drastic. The book's flamboyant style may appear to be "a good read". All the more reason to alert the general reader. That Cunard's life was replete with extraordinary events and relationships does not confer upon the biographer the right to play fast and loose. Such treatment may befit an exploitative Hollywood movie but not a literary documentation with academic credentials. It may be that few care. Neverthless . . . In respect of, for example, Crowder, by Cunard's admission the single most important man in her life, a good deal of the information the author needed had been available to her for some years in an exploratory article in a journal, which was also posted online. Either she chose to ignore it or she did not find it, though it was easy to find. Unfortunately, she does not even get the facts right from the sources she does use and her misdemeanors extend far beyond that particular subject. (Crowder does not even figure in a list of Cunard's friends in an interview with the author on the publisher's website, while another, with whom she had no relationship whatsoever, is proposed as a lover.)

In response to a comment on my original brief posting: I have mentioned my forthcoming book on Crowder's life (which will not receive wide distribution or review) and Anne Chisholm's earlier, easily available, elegant, sober, generous, decent biography of Cunard, which is grudgingly noted and casually mistreated by Gordon, in order to give general readers the opportunity to find other takes on Cunard, which they might otherwise miss, and so allow them to judge from a well-informed position.
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