MARTHA

THE LIFE AND WORK OF MARTHA GRAHAM

Eye-opening, riveting, enlightening, uplifting—Martha Graham's life and times seen through the discerning, appreciative eye of Agnes de Mille. This is an earthier, more human Graham than in her own Blood Memory (p. 839); it is also a more detailed look at the era. Graham's vision was so focused that she was unaware of, or thought unimportant, the surroundings, players, intrigues; she was also extremely private. De Mille can and does give us the fuller picture. De Mille met Graham in the early Denishawn days in California; their lives and careers intertwined ever after with varying degrees of intensity. They were friends, worked with many of the same people, and kept a critical eye on each other's work. Graham's strength and will were apparent certainly by her teens; her genius was apparent early, too. De Mille follows the development of that gift, and along the way explores in depth Graham's contemporaries, technique, and the dance world generally. This is meaty, detailed stuff, and all in de Mille's wonderful voice. On Doris Humphrey: ``...she analyzed everything. It was not enough that a fall or lean could be lovely. She had to explain why...Her own dancing seemed to have little personality, while Martha's was electrifying.'' On the relationship between a choreographer's physique and his work, and Graham's in particular: she claimed that she always choregraphed falls on the left because the heart is on the left. ``Maybe so,'' says de Mille, ``but to this dancer it seems that it really was because her left leg and thigh were stronger and more stretched out.'' De Mille drops a number of bombshells here, particularly in her discussions of Graham's emotional life. She had stormy, sometimes physically abusive (by both parties) relationships in her life. De Mille describes the two most intense crises: Graham's failed marriage to Erick Hawkins; and her forced retirement as a dancer, in 1968, at age 72. This latter precipitated a physical collapse that de Mille names convincingly as being alcoholic. ``Martha got well, in her own way, in her own time, and without alcohol. Martha rose from the dead, and verily, she was changed now.'' A loving, respectful, but always cleareyed account of the human Graham. A must for fans of Graham's, de Mille's, dance- -indeed, anyone wanting a clear picture of a creative era that is fast drawing to a close. (Thirty-two pp. of b&w photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1991

ISBN: 0-394-55643-7

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1991

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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