George Gershwin: His Life and Work - Howard Pollack This book needs two ratings. For the inexhaustible academic work it is, it deserves five stars. Pollack does an amazing job in not only chronicling Gershwin's life but analyzing all of the composer's works. The biography is close to 900 pages with slightly less than 200 of that being notes and index. There is not one stone unturned in Gershwin's life and there is some fascinating information on the supporting cast, like James Reese Europe, Eubie Blake, Paul Whiteman etc, as well. These little side notes bring some humanity to the composer. For example, Oscar Levant's question to George Gershwin after the composer addressed his adoring public; "If you had your life to live all over again, would you still fall in love with yourself?" But the focus is on Gershwin and any scholar of his music would agree this is the definitive biography.

However, the rating for readability would have be lower; maybe three stars. It isn't because it is bad writing. In fact, Pollack is quite good. But he is a bit dry. The book soon becomes a "And then he wrote" or "And then he met". It's hard to see anyone but a true Gershwin fan wading through this epic tome. There are some excellent chapters especially the several on "Porgy and Bess" but overall it is just too much information for the average reader.

These two considerations, readability and research, can be bridged. I recently read an excellent biography on Thelonious Monk that was both highly detailed and highly readable but Pollack doesn't quite achieve the balance.

So three stars for readability. Five stars for academic excellence. Let's split the difference and call it four stars.