In the Orbit of Genius

Even before celebrity culture, life with a star had a dangerous gravitational pull

Genius comes at a price, and it's usually those around the genius who pay it. Like a dark star, genius pulls people into its orbit, or sends them spinning off in unpredictable directions, or draws them down and consumes them. We are accustomed to thinking of talent as a creative force, but two new biographies remind us just how shockingly destructive it can be.

When Lucia Joyce was born in 1907, no one knew her father James was a genius. He was just a twentysomething layabout, an Irishman drinking away his exile in the Italian city of Trieste, scribbling unpublished manuscripts....

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