Profile And Planned Biography Place Summers In The Spotlight

Not merely in verse, but also in print, University President Lawrence H. Summers continues to be the object of outsiders’ attention.

In August, an eerie close-up of his face was plastered across the cover of the New York Times Magazine.

This fall, work continues on a book chronicling Summers’ presidency, albeit from a somewhat more comfortable distance.

Tentatively titled Empire of The Mind: Lawrence Summers and the Battle For Harvard, the book is being written by John F. Kennedy Jr. biographer Richard Blow and is expected for spring 2005.

“It’s a look at the changes that Larry is making here and his vision for the future of Harvard, and the influence that those things may have on higher education in general,” Blow said.


Blow said his focus will be those priorities he has identified as Summers’ own: his interest in the sciences, in Harvard’s expansion into Allston, in reworking undergraduate education and in globalization.

He said he was “fascinated by Larry—he’s such a complicated, thoughtful, interesting guy.”

Summers, however, has been somewhat less fascinated with Blow.

In an interview last week, he said that he was aware of the book but not affording Blow New York Times level access—or anything close to it. “That’s not something we’re cooperating with,” he said of Empire of the Mind.

Summers may have been scared off by Blow’s first book, American Son, A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr, which was critically panned.

People magazine named it the worst book of 2002 for its “disrespectful intrusiveness and lack of content.”

Esquire called the book by the former George Magazine executive editor “unreflective, pompous, craven, exploitative, hanger-on-ish, and just horrendously written.”

In that case, Blow was writing about his former boss. Before he began on Summers last year, he had not met his subject. A Harvard spokesperson said she thought the two had never met at all.

Blow would not say whether he has spoken with Summers in person.

But he said that from talking to those who had worked with him, he had gotten “a sense that Larry’s a force.”