An important reassessment of Irving that restores him to his rightful place as a founder of American literature.

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THE ORIGINAL KNICKERBOCKER

THE LIFE OF WASHINGTON IRVING

The first major biography in a half-century of one of America’s first professional writers, from a historian (History/Univ. of Tulsa) who specializes in early America (Jefferson’s Secrets, 2005, etc.).

Burstein’s is a conventional telling of a literary life. He begins with a glance at post-Revolutionary New York, brings his hero onstage, tells his life story, ends with an assessment of his influence. But Irving has long needed such a thorough, sympathetic treatment. Burstein shows the enormous influence of Irving’s family (he was the youngest of 11), illustrates thoughtfully his political life (he met presidents, was friends with Aaron Burr, officially served his government, in the U.S. and abroad), chronicles his relationships with iconic colleagues—Walter Scott, Poe, Godwin, Mary Shelley (who, in widowhood, wished for more than mere friendship with Irving), Dickens, Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper (who barked at and bit his fellow New Yorker). Burstein also does an intelligent job of explicating Irving’s works—and it’s sad to note that he must summarize even “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” neither of which, he says, retains its prominence in the public-school curriculum. Using Irving’s volumes of correspondence and travel journals (with the acknowledged help of the scholarly editions of Irving’s work prepared decades ago by the Univ. of Wisconsin and Twayne Publishers), Burstein is able to explore the origins of Irving’s prose. Irving emerges here as a highly professional, productive and satiric writer who published travel books, sketches, stories, histories, biographies (including his final work, a five-volume life of George Washington, whom he met and for whom he was named). Like other scholars, Burstein is troubled by Irving’s sex life. Did he have one? Was he gay? Or was he a stereotypical asexual bachelor uncle who enjoyed the company of women, especially younger ones? Burstein believes the evidence is insufficient to make a definitive answer.

An important reassessment of Irving that restores him to his rightful place as a founder of American literature.

Pub Date: March 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-465-00853-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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