BOOKS: Lenny, With Lenny Missing

The subject eludes a dutiful new Bernstein biography

Who was Leonard Bernstein? A talented conductor and gifted composer of popular music who overreached when he tried to write "serious" scores? A lecherous bisexual who alienated his wife, confounded his children and appalled his friends with his calculated program of artful dissipation? Classical music's shining American champion, familiar to millions from his television proselytizing? By the time the reader finishes slogging through Humphrey Burton's exhaustively researched but strangely noncommittal biography, Leonard Bernstein (Doubleday; 594 pages; $25), he still hasn't got a clue.

Burton, a British television director who had known and worked with Lenny -- to use the inevitable diminutive...

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