At this time of year, who can resist the story of the composer of “White Christmas?” Not me. I do love biographies, but this one is exceptional. It’s about a genius, of course. But it’s also about three of the things I care most about: music, writing and the mystery of creativity.
In addition, Irving Berlin: New York Genius is about so much more. James Kaplan has set Berlin’s life in the context of the immigrant experience, New York in the late nineteenth century, the theater and Broadway, the literary life of the 1920’s and 30’s, early Hollywood and America during the war years and the depression. While these topics are merely background and obviously not covered in depth, they add immeasurably to the rich portrait of an extraordinary life. It’s an inspiration for me as a writer. The main lesson: work. According to sources, Berlin believed in perspiration, not inspiration. Hmmm. Sounds like a New Year’s resolution in the making.