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In this vivid portrayal of a giant in American twentieth-century music and criticism, Anthony Tommasini recounts Thomson's experiences as a composer, critic, and gay man. Tommasini chronicles Thomson's upbringing in turn-of-the-century Kansas City, along with his struggle to accept his sexuality-"I didn't want to be queer"-as he searched for a place in the wider world through army service in World War I as well as at Harvard and in 1920s Paris. There Thomson studied with Nadia Boulanger and formed an artistic alliance with Gertrude Stein that would result in the pioneering opera Four Saints in Three Acts. Thomson's fourteen-year tenure as chief music critic for the New York Herald Tribune showcased his talent for brilliant, biting commentary and established him as an influential writer on music and an arbiter of musical taste. The result of this involving narrative is a classic American biography of a classic American character.