A revelatory portrait of a towering writer.



Anna Karenina affords an intimate look at Tolstoy's life.

For Blaisdell, a book critic and professor of English, Anna Karenina is nothing less than a masterpiece: “a holy book, a work of art” worthy of the intense attention he has devoted to it. Besides producing a meticulous close reading of the novel—summaries of chapters as they appeared in serial form, his responses as a reader, and his speculations about how Tolstoy’s contemporaries might have responded—Blaisdell draws on letters, memoirs, drafts, proofs, and Tolstoy’s various other writings to offer a detailed examination of the context of Tolstoy’s life during the four years of the novel’s creation. Tolstoy’s wife, Sofia, who “saved everything she could of what he wrote” and kept a disarmingly candid diary, proves central to Blaisdell’s sources. In addition to chronicling their life, she was closely involved in Tolstoy’s work, copying drafts and revisions. In appreciation for what she describes as her “zealous transcribing,” Tolstoy rewarded Sofia with a diamond and ruby ring. As Sofia portrays him, Tolstoy was a “distractible and fitful” writer, often occupied with matters other than his latest work of fiction: boisterous family life; various illnesses in their family; Sofia’s frequent pregnancies; business negotiations; the acquisition and care of horses; and especially pedagogy. Tolstoy was much concerned with teaching literacy, for which he established a school, wrote texts for students, and worked assiduously on tracts for teacher training. Among Tolstoy’s correspondents, letters to and from literary critic and philosopher Nikolai Strakhov are especially revealing. Strakhov, Blaisdell asserts convincingly, was Tolstoy’s “most important friend” as he faced the challenges of creating characters that came to seem more real to him than people he knew. “I have adopted her,” Tolstoy wrote of his doomed heroine. Anna, Blaisdell asserts, “is the character through whom Tolstoy dramatized and experienced his deepest terrors.” While some general readers may find the exegesis of the novel to be overkill, the author makes it personal and interesting enough to overcome that minor flaw.

A revelatory portrait of a towering writer.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-462-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

Did you like this book?

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.


A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.

Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.

A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet