Begley capably brings to life the lost Parisian world where Nadar held court. His outsized personality dominates this...

THE GREAT NADAR

THE MAN BEHIND THE CAMERA

A lively portrait of a photography pioneer who altered the cultural landscape of 19th-century France.

If readers in America know anything about Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910), better known as Nadar, it's that he took some penetrating, iconic pictures of French celebrities—Victor Hugo, Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, and George Sand among them—and perhaps also that he broke new ground in aerial photography by taking his camera and tripod aloft in a hot air balloon. As Begley (Updike, 2014, etc.) reveals in this entertaining biography, these facts hardly suggest the full range of Nadar's involvement in the haut monde of his day. He was also a cultural force, a one-man entertainment industry who spawned a host of imitators. In his early days, he was a young rebel. Along with close friends like the poet Charles Baudelaire and the tormented (and ultimately suicidal) writer Gérard de Nerval, he was a bohemian: young men of exhausted means who lived on the margins of society, borrowing from each other and running up debts. Nadar started his professional life as a writer of hopelessly corny moral tales. Never one to stay in the same place for long, he then became a widely known caricaturist who created a pen-and-ink pantheon of French society under the Second Republic of Louis-Napoleon. Barely did he make a name for himself before giving it up for photography, where he found his calling. He became a master of the new medium, adept at manipulating light and shade. He gained wealthy clients who liked seeing themselves immortalized in their finest clothes; he also helped create what we now know as celebrity culture. He also became rich enough to pursue new and sometimes insanely risky ideas involving flight as well as to fight endless legal battles with the brother who kept stealing his name.

Begley capably brings to life the lost Parisian world where Nadar held court. His outsized personality dominates this enjoyable and amply illustrated volume.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-90260-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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

INTO THE WILD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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