mercredi 28 septembre 2011

The Guggenheims - Debi Unger And Irwin Unger

the guggenheims - debi unger and irwin unger
the guggenheims - debi unger and irwin unger

A biography of an illustrious family can be like a cassoulet: lots of delicious bits that combine beautifully but no tastes that fully stand out. Such is the case with this remarkably researched history of the Guggenheims. Pulitzer Prize–winner Irwin Unger (The Greenback Era) and his wife, Debi (coauthor, with Irwin, of LBJ: A Life), assemble an extraordinary collection of letters, interviews, memos and contemporary documents to tell the story of the family's rapid rise and slow decline, a saga marked by a combination of "profound Americanism" and Jewish "old world heritage." The sheer size of the Guggenheim family—the Ungers note that the "legion" descendants of Meyer (1828–1905), the family patriarch, are "impossible" to follow through time—means that no one member of the clan stands out, though the feisty Harry, "fighting entropy" in the family for much of the 20th century, burns brighter than many of his relatives. The scintillating Peggy Guggenheim, known for her patronage of modern art and her robust sex life, gets ample play here, but her story is told more thoroughly in recent biographies by Anton Gill and Mary Dearborn. Readers looking for a broad, appetizing sweep of American life will find it here, but those hungry for sharp, burning flavors may skip to the next course. 16-page b&w photo insert not seen by PW.
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