“I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat,’ ” Bennett writes of his reputation for niceness. “And did I stab Judi Dench...

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KEEPING ON KEEPING ON

The third installment of diaries from the celebrated dramatist and author.

For a butcher’s son from Leeds, Bennett (Smut: Two Unseemly Stories, 2011, etc.) has done exceedingly well for himself. From his early days as a member of Beyond the Fringe—he modestly calls himself “a less talented performer” than Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, or Jonathan Miller—he has since become the author of such celebrated plays as The Madness of George III and The History Boys. To many readers, he may be just as famous for his diaries, which have appeared annually in the London Review of Books for 30 years. Like its predecessors, Writing Home (1995) and Untold Stories (2006), this book contains a decade of his diary entries. Fans will recognize Bennett in these pages: riding his bike, buying antiques, visiting medieval churches, and, as always, enjoying his lovingly described sandwiches. Part of the charm of these entries is the mix of the mundane and the glamorous. In a senior moment, he can’t find a favorite sweater, and his partner has to tell him he’s wearing it. Next, he’s meeting the likes of Judi Dench, Tom Stoppard, Elizabeth Taylor (who sat on his knee at a party, although he doesn’t remember why), and John F. Kennedy. The second half of the book includes introductions to his later plays, speeches, and two unproduced scripts, but the highlights are the diaries. Bennett makes just about everything sound poetic, as when he writes that a routine colonoscopy reveals “a little fairy ring of polyps, innocent enough but ruthlessly lassoed and garrotted by the radiographer.” And who wouldn’t smile upon reading that, at the post office, an elderly customer recognized Bennett and commanded, “Say something whimsical”?

“I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat,’ ” Bennett writes of his reputation for niceness. “And did I stab Judi Dench with a pitchfork I should still be a teddy bear.” That may be debatable, but the good-naturedness in these engaging pages is proof of his current standing.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-18105-5

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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