From familiar works to those not so well-known, Weinstein expertly extracts their timeless lessons.



Weinstein (Comparative Literature/Brown Univ.; Northern Arts: The Breakthrough of Scandinavian Literature and Art, from Ibsen to Bergman, 2008, etc.) eloquently mines the literary canon for rites-of-passage stories.

In this beautifully, tenderly conceived work, the author employs these seminal texts from Shakespeare to J.M. Coetzee to illuminate both the experience of his young students facing the beginning of their life’s journey and also his own, as a man well into his sunset years and looking back at the journey’s end. He uses as point of departure (and title) Oedipus’s answer to the Sphinx’s riddle—“What is the creature that is on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, three legs at night?”—to delve into these stories as excellent depictions of man at various stages of life. With marvelous clarity gained from three decades of teaching, Weinstein addresses the trajectory of growing up to growing old, moving from Oedipus’s own blindness and lack of agency in perpetrating his tragedy, to William Blake’s vision of a cruel collusion in acculturation gained in the breathtaking “Chimney Sweeper” poems, to the hard-knock lessons of the picaresque Lazarillo de Tormes and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The author also finds protagonists embittered by the illusory “final harvest,” forsaken and disempowered in their old age—from King Lear to Jean Racine’s Phèdre and Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Throughout this astute, elegant text, Weinstein reminds us why we read (“Art makes life visible”) and why these stories are still especially relevant—“as that special mirror that shows up both how others have come through and how we might learn from them.” Chapters treating the theme of love as a “basic motor force” prove particularly incandescent, and with certain texts in particular—e.g., Tarjei Vesaas’s The Ice Palace, Faulkner novels, King Lear—the author attains a pitch of passionate rhapsody.

From familiar works to those not so well-known, Weinstein expertly extracts their timeless lessons.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6586-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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