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WYATT EARP

A VIGILANTE LIFE

Thorough research enriches the paint in this convincing and often unflattering portrait.

Isenberg (History/Temple Univ.; Mining California: An Ecological History, 2005, etc.) examines the life and legend of the famous lawman/liar/faro dealer/boxing referee/advisor on Western movies.

This is likely the only biography of Wyatt Earp (1848–1929) that compares him with Henry, not Jesse, James. Although he focuses on Earp’s biography—with both actual and Earp-concocted facts—the author pauses periodically to provide historical context and offer literary and other analogies. Melville has a cameo, as do Damon and Pythias and Prince Hal. Even Freud (unnamed) appears in an allusion to the Colt Buntline Special as phallic symbol. Isenberg also alludes continually to Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, Stuart Lake’s 1931 biography that told Earp’s story mostly the way he’d wanted it told—i.e., falsely. Isenberg carefully separates the historic from the hysterical, examines documents, evaluates sources critically and eventually scrapes away from Earp’s image the gilding that cultural history has applied. Earp was only marginally different from the men he—in company with a couple of his brothers and tubercular Doc Holliday—helped shoot near (not in, the author assures us) the O.K. Corral. (Isenberg’s account of the 30-second battle consumes only a couple of pages.) The author notes that, later, Earp had been evanescing, but in 1896 he emerged to referee—in clearly corrupt fashion—a big boxing match. This brought his name back, and in the emerging era of mass media, Earp found he could not flee his notoriety. So he decided to cash in on it.  After his death, the flood of films and books and TV shows has never really subsided. Isenberg shows us Earp as an early Jay Gatsby, reinventing himself continually.

Thorough research enriches the paint in this convincing and often unflattering portrait.

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9500-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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NIGHT

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

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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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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