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ETERNITY'S SUNRISE

THE IMAGINATIVE WORLD OF WILLIAM BLAKE

General readers looking for a challenge will love this book and will dive into Blake’s work. Many will find him just too far...

Acclaimed scholar and biographer Damrosch (Literature/Harvard Univ.; Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World, 2013, etc.) brings decades of study to this analysis of William Blake’s art, poetry, religion, and philosophy.

Those with little experience with the 18th-century poet will probably benefit the most from this fascinating work. As the author writes, Blake’s poems are undeniably strange, and his genius has always challenged the focus of his readers (he was overlooked during his lifetime). Especially difficult is tracing the complications of the unpublished poem “The Four Zoas” and their feminine emanations. Blake’s outlooks on the divine, which is contained in all nature, and institutional religion, which he loathed, show in his invented symbols and unique myths. He sought the incarnation of the divine spirit of the human in the everyday, and he looked at conventional marriage as institutionalized prostitution and conventional religion as theatrical performance. In “London,” nothing is sacred as Blake indicts church, law, monarchy, property, and marriage. He produced his own engravings and writings, and those who bought them tended to ignore the text. The author’s study of the man and clear style make this much easier to read and tempt readers to seek out more. Blake was a complicated man, given to visions and paranoia, and he often heard voices, and Damrosch guides us through the paths of Blake’s mind to ease our journey. Blake’s poems and art were used to challenge and inspire, never to preach, and his first works had a social message. His long prophecies were not epics, however; a better analogy is music, as they resembled oratorios with key changes and tempo contrasts. Damrosch expertly navigates Blake’s “question imagination,” which “has never ceased to startle and inspire.”

General readers looking for a challenge will love this book and will dive into Blake’s work. Many will find him just too far off the beam, but they, too, will enjoy the many color illustrations included in the text.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-20067-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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