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VALERIE SOLANAS

THE DEFIANT LIFE OF THE WOMAN WHO WROTE SCUM (AND SHOT ANDY WARHOL)

As Fahs portrays her, Solanas emerges less as “a woman who detected a spirit of collective anguish” than as a woman...

A sympathetic biography of a troubled and troubling woman.

On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas (1936–1988) shot Andy Warhol, almost fatally wounding him. That act and her writing of a feminist manifesto titled SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) made her a cult heroine in her own time. Fahs (Gender Studies/Arizona State Univ.; Performing Sex: The Making and Unmaking of Women's Erotic Lives, 2011, etc.), believing Solanas to be a brilliant and “startling prescient,” faced considerable challenges in working on this biography: Solanas’ mother burned her daughter’s papers after Valerie died, and many who knew her refused to talk with Fahs. “Valerie famously rejected, alienated, and repeatedly threatened to kill nearly every friend she had,” writes the author. A polarizing figure, Solanas was championed by such feminists as Ti-Grace Atkinson and Florynce Kennedy, the lawyer who defended her for attempted murder, but was reviled by others. The National Organization for Women, founded in 1966, was divided about associating itself with her. A radical faction interpreted Solanas’ act as revolutionary, “a symbol of women’s rage.” Liberal feminists, focused on abortion rights reform, saw the enraged, violent Solanas as “NOW’s worst nightmare.” For her part, Solanas vehemently rejected expressions of solidarity. “SCUM is for whores, dykes, criminals, homicidal maniacs,” she wrote to Atkinson, who had praised the manifesto. “Therefore, please refrain from commenting on SCUM + from ‘defending’ me. I already have an excess of ‘friends’ out there who are suffocating me.” Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic after the shooting, Solanas descended ever more deeply into madness, spending her last 20 years in and out of mental hospitals. She claimed that a transmitter had been planted in her uterus and that an entity she called "the Mob" was after her. She died impoverished and alone.

As Fahs portrays her, Solanas emerges less as “a woman who detected a spirit of collective anguish” than as a woman destroyed by her own overpowering demons.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55861-848-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Feminist Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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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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