Could well encourage a new generation to read Longfellow.

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LONGFELLOW

A REDISCOVERED LIFE

A sprightly, long-needed biography of 19th-century America's most famous, myth-making poet.

Shortly after his death at age 75 in 1882, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow fell out of fashion. Though he had been wildly acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic and enriched by a lifelong dedication to writing poetry, he was an easy target for modernists, who disdained his work as sentimental, derivative of Europeans, preachy, unironic, and even racist in its Indian depictions. Calhoun, who previously wrote a history of Longfellow’s alma mater (A Small College in Maine: Two Hundred Years of Bowdoin, 1993), notes there hasn’t been a competent biography of Longfellow since Newton Arvin’s critical study in 1962. Yet this descendant of Harvard-educated gentlemen farmers and lawyers blazed many a trail from his birthplace in Portland, Maine, to his longtime residence in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Longfellow was a pioneering professor of modern languages and literatures at Harvard, where he taught for 18 years. He drew on folk myths such as the Finnish Kalevala long before Ezra Pound made the practice fashionable. He was the first to address what we now call ethnic cleansing in such poems as “Evangeline,” which depicted the tragedy of the Acadians in Nova Scotia; the first to solidify an American identity from Native stories (“The Song of Hiawatha”) and emblematic colonial characters such as Priscilla Alden, Paul Revere, and Miles Standish; and the first to bring Dante to the general American public. Calhoun even asserts that Longfellow’s rural sketch “Kavanagh” portrays the first lesbian relationship in US fiction. Moreover, the author presents an enormously sympathetic portrait of a universally admired gentleman who shunned public speaking, avoided taking stands on divisive issues such as slavery (despite the urging of his best friend, Senator Charles Sumner), and was devoted to his family. Calhoun’s comprehensive bibliography makes this additionally valuable as a veritable primer of Victorian America.

Could well encourage a new generation to read Longfellow.

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8070-7026-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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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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