A well-researched if surprisingly cool account of sensual artists.

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ALFRED STIEGLITZ, GEORGIA O'KEEFFE, PAUL STRAND, REBECCA SALSBURY

A biography of two of the 20th century’s most famous artist couples, who “prodded, inspired, irritated, and encouraged one another as they grew into modes of relationship that none could have foreseen.”

Readers could be forgiven for thinking the world doesn’t need another biography of Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. However, Burke (No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf, 2011, etc.) distinguishes her book from previous treatments by investigating the dynamic between the more famous couple and the artists who would become their protégés and, for several years in the 1920s and ’30s, a couple: Paul Strand, the aspiring young photographer who met Stieglitz upon visiting the legendary 291 studio that Stieglitz opened in New York in 1905; and Rebecca Salsbury, better known as Beck, the well-to-do daughter of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show partner and a woman determined to become an artist, “an act of defiance that would meet with her mother’s disapproval.” Throughout the book, the author quotes liberally from the trove of surviving letters among the four principals. Yet despite the comprehensiveness of the narrative, it has a faint pulse. The linear story is a laundry list of events in the quartet’s lives, but it contains relatively little drama. Emmy, Stieglitz’s brewery-heiress first wife, is all but missing from the story. One assumes that their marriage overflowed with friction, especially after Stieglitz began cheating on her with O’Keeffe while also conducting a “risqué correspondence” with Beck, but one doesn’t fully get that sense from the narrative. Some readers might prefer to know more about that marriage than about Stieglitz’s eye pain or O’Keeffe’s swollen legs after a smallpox vaccination. Still, there’s enough juicy material here to intrigue readers interested in the private lives of artists—e.g., the revelation that Stieglitz and O’Keeffe had nicknames for one another’s private parts (“Miss Fluffy” and the reportedly ironic “Little Fella”) and, when the couple were apart, Stieglitz “would often ask after Fluffy’s welfare.”

A well-researched if surprisingly cool account of sensual artists.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-307-95729-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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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