- In 1997 James Atlas
had a "literary epiphany." After spending years working on lengthy
biographies of Delmore Schwartz and Saul Bellow, he decided shorter
biographies would sell. He also believed readers would buy and enjoy short
biographies written by famous contemporary authors. After publishing over
thirty titles, the publishers have decided to end the series, which is a
pity. Each of the books has been well written, interesting, and worth any
- reader's time. Roy
Blount, Jr.'s biography on Robert E. Lee is insightful, generous, and
- Often caricatured,
stereotyped or forgotten, Lee's an enigma. His family was one of the
illustrious Lees of Virginia. Four of his father's cousins were members of
the Continental Congress. The family was "so prominent, indeed, that other
families expressed resentment that the Lees were hogging the Revolution."
His father ("Light-Horse Harry") was a hero with a scandalous past Lee
spent a lifetime trying to overcome.
- Lee's mother (Ann
Carter Lee) was a great beauty whose husband left her for long periods of
time. Robert was the youngest of their five children who survived infancy.
Robert became her nurse and confidant. It pained his mother that the
family had no money to send her favorite child to the best schools.
Consequently, he attended West Point where he overcompensated
- hoping to balance
his perception of his father's disgrace of the family by building an
honorable reputation for himself.
- In 1861 Lee was
Lincoln's first choice to lead the Union troops. As a Virginian, Lee felt
an allegiance to the Confederates. He led his half-starved troops with a
"sorrowful sense of responsibility."
- Roy Blount, Jr. has
written a compelling biography of a complicated man and reluctant soldier.
- Blount grew up in
Georgia and served in the army. He appears regularly on public radio, has
written for magazines as diverse as Sports Illustrated and The
Atlantic, and is the author of a memoir, Be Sweet. He currently
"lives mostly in Massachusetts."
- Southern Scribe
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