Alice James by Jean Strouse
A Biography (New York Review Books Classics)

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Synopsis

The Jameses are perhaps the most extraordinary and distinguished family in American intellectual life. Henry’s novels, celebrated as among the finest in the language, and William’s groundbreaking philosophical and psychological works, have won these brothers a permanent place at the center of the nation’s cultural firmament. Less well known is their enigmatic younger sister, Alice. As Jean Stouse’s generous, probing, and deeply imaginative biography shows, however, Alice James was a fascinating and exceptional figure in her own right. Tortured throughout her short life by an array of nervous disorders, constrained by social convention from achieving the worldly success she so desired, Alice nevertheless emerges from this remarkable book as a personality every bit as peculiar and engaging as her two famous brothers. “The moral and philosophical questions that Henry wrote up as fiction and William as science,” writes Strouse, “Alice simply lived.” With a psychological penetration and high eloquence that are altogether Jamesian, Strouse traces the formation of a unique identity, from Alice’s unconventional peripatetic childhood in continental Europe through her years of spinsterhood in the United Sates and later England. It was there that she began to keep her celebrated diary, full of fitting social observation and unblinking self-analysis. “I consider myself one of the most potent creations of my time,” she wrote to William, with characteristic tartness, towards the end of her life, “and though I may not have a group of Harvard students sitting at my feet drinking in psychic truth, I shall not tremble, I assure you, at
the last trump.”
 

About Jean Strouse

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Jean Strouse won the Bancroft Prize in American History and Diplomacy for her biography Alice James. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, Vogue, and Newsweek, and she has held fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and from the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts. She lives in New York City.
 
Published November 1, 2011 by NYRB Classics. 392 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

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NPR coverage of Alice James: A Biography by Jean Strouse. News, author interviews, critics' picks and more.

Nov 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Alice James: A Biography (New...

NPR

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With siblings like William and Henry James, it's easy to be forgotten. But Alice James, the sickly younger sister of two famously brilliant minds, has proved herself unforgettable. In Jean Strouse's biography Alice James, the author revisits a woman who had a salty wit, but a chronic cold.

Nov 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Alice James: A Biography (New...

The New Yorker

Strouse tells Alice’s story, and the story of her family, through an unvaselined lens of profound empathy. Everyone is fumbling, but Strouse presents the details of this without judgment. Alice’s family smothers and mishandles her; Alice makes an absurd tyranny of her weakness; doctors try treat...

Oct 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Alice James: A Biography (New...

The New York Review of Books

Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Newsweek, Architectural Digest, and Slate.

Nov 01 2011 | Read Full Review of Alice James: A Biography (New...

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