Jennifer Kemnitz, January 17, 2013 (view all comments by Jennifer Kemnitz)
I read very few biographies, partly because so many are poorly written. This one, however, was both well-researched and well-written, which is not too surprising since the biographer, Matteson, won the Pulitzer for his last book. The author displayed quite a lot of psychological insight in his treatment of his subject, the complex Margaret Fuller. A proto-feminist icon and one of the great intellects of her day, she was a friend to Emerson, Thoreau, the elder Henry James, and many other famous persons. She held all-female salons, whose audience included (later) founding feminists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Julia Ward Howe. Fuller edited The Dial, that famous transcendental journal, and wrote 3 books of nonfiction, including Woman in the Nineteenth Century, which was a bestseller in its day. She was even the first long-term foreign correspondent-- of either sex-- for an American newspaper, the New York Tribune, and became embroiled in Rome's 1848-9 rebellion against its Austrian rulers and even the papacy.
With all this, she was a flawed woman, and Matteson is able to put across her foibles as sympathetically as her triumphs. Wonderful!
Marylisa Gavenas, January 30, 2012 (view all comments by Marylisa Gavenas)
Frankly, I wasn’t too interested in Transcendentalists and didn’t know much about Margaret Fuller before reading this. I bought it because Eden’s Outcasts, the author’s previous book, was a favorite (and won a much-deserved Pulitzer Prize for Biography). So I settled in for a nice winter’s read�"page after page of prize-winning prose.
I got that.
But after a few dozen pages of reliably gorgeous writing, I realized that Mr. Matteson was using his 19th-century heroine to open debate on very 21-century issues: why accomplishment in a woman is invariably perceived as arrogance; the power of a parent to push a child’s development; intellectual disparity between partners; how “plain women” were perceived then and now.
Mr. Matteson deserves another Pulitzer.
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