In Plato’s Apology, Socrates states that "those…things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, and…the unexamined life is not worth living." Certainly the plethora of biographies and autobiographies suggests that the world has taken Socrates’ advice to heart, mostly in lengthy and often multivolume works: Leonard Woolf’s five volumes of self-examination, Leon Edel’s seven volumes on Henry James. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in shorter and emotionally immediate versions. Echoing Aubrey’s Brief Lives and Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians, Weidenfeld and Nicolson in London and Penguin in New York have initiated a series of brief and focused biographies written by nonspecialists who have, however, a special appreciation for their subject: Edmund White on Proust, McMurtry on Crazy Horse, and Gary Wills on Saint Augustine. Happily, the list includes Edna O’Brien on James Joyce.