He recently had another piece in that magazine, lamenting the trend to multi-volume biographies, suggesting that single-volume books would be better. He said
In the nineteenth century, the big sets were usually reserved for the big politicians. Disraeli got seven volumes and Gladstone three, but the lives of the poets or the artists or even the scientists tended to be enfolded within the limits of a single volume. John Forster’s life of Dickens did take its time, and tomes, but Elizabeth Gaskell kept Charlotte Brontë within one set of covers, and Darwin got his life and letters presented in one compact volume, by his son. The modern mania for the multivolume biography of figures who seem in most ways “minor” may have begun with Michael Holroyd’s two volumes devoted to Lytton Strachey, who was wonderful and influential but a miniaturist perhaps best treated as such. Strachey, at least, talked a lot and had a vivid sex life. But we are now headed toward a third volume of the life of Bing Crosby, and already have two volumes on Dai Vernon, the master card magician (a master, yes, but of card magic). This season, the life of Alexander Calder, toymaker to the modernist muses, arrives in the first volume of what promises to be two.
While it is always a pleasant surprise to see Vernon mentioned respectfully in the "lay" press, what's going on here? I'd like to think that if Vol 2 of David Ben's biography of Vernon had in fact been released, I would have seen mention of it somewhere.