Kai Bird, Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, reviews Man of the Hour by Jennet Conant for the New York Times.
An Acclaimed Biographer Takes on her Grandfather, the Atomic Scientist James B. Conant.
Biography is a notoriously arduous affair. Typically, the biographer spends years in the archives, sifting through documents, folder by folder, box by endless box. One worries about the missing diary or the poignant letter gone astray — or the proverbial suitcase in the attic, stuffed with handwritten love letters, only to be discovered too late. Naturally, the reader may wonder what motivates the biographer’s obsessiveness.
Jennet Conant is the acclaimed author of four previous books about World War II, including two best-selling volumes on Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project. But she is also the granddaughter of James B. Conant, the subject of her new biography.