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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow opined in "A Psalm of Life" in 1838
that "Lives of great men all remind us/We can make our lives
departing, leave behind us/Footprints on the sands of time." While both
and readers today take a much more skeptical, critical approach to the
the great than they did 173 years ago, biographies -- the more
better -- have, if anything, an even stronger appeal. And this is a
good moment for books about important figures in the arts, among them
Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway and Spencer Tracy.