EXPEDITION WHYDAH

THE STORY OF THE WORLD'S FIRST EXCAVATION OF A PIRATE TREASURE SHIP AND THE MAN WHO FOUND HER

Treasure hunter Clifford’s (The Pirate Prince, 1993, etc.) second account of discovering the remains of the notorious pirate vessel Whydah is as overburdened with trivial detail as the wreck is with drifting sand. Co-author Perry is also a member of the expediiton team. When the pirate Black Sam Bellamy captured the English slave ship Whydah, it no longer had its terrible human cargo aboard, but indigo and lapis, silver and gold, and a ruby rumored to be as big as a hen’s egg. Bellamy turned the fleet vessel into his flagship and used it for plunder until a fierce storm sent the Whydah to the bottom off Cape Cod. In a conversational tone, Clifford tells the story of his infatuation with Bellamy and the Whydah, from his early days on Martha’s Vineyard when his uncle would regale him with stories of pirate treasure to be had for the picking, right up through his uncovering of much Whydah booty and, more archaeologically significant, identification of the Whydah, the only pirate ship ever found. Unfortunately, the life of a treasure hunter is a swath of boredom punctuated by rare incandescent moments. Much of the time Clifford is out grubbing for money to finance the search and, laudably, to preserve the artifacts, but it doesn’t make for edge-of-the-chair reading. Likewise, court tussles with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over disposition of the find are as dull as the eye of a dead mackerel. More engaging, perhaps even than the treasure itself, is Clifford’s interest in pirates, and particularly his piecing together of Bellamy’s life (though the parallels he insinuates between himself and Bellamy are a stretch). Readers won’t have to buy into his suggestion that pirates were warriors in the class struggle to appreciate why many turned to brigandry under the black flag. Despite flashes of excitement when loot surfaces and captivating historical tidbits, Clifford’s story lacks drama and excitement. A National Geographic TV special based on the tale airs this spring. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-019232-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1999

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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