Sparkling prose drives a fascinating snapshot of a literary life buffeted by the great conflicts of his time.

THE BIRD THAT SWALLOWED ITS CAGE

THE SELECTED WRITINGS OF CURZIO MALAPARTE

Unusual, engaging literary synthesis from a renowned film artisan and his private obsession, an Italian writer and political radical largely unknown in America.

Academy Award–winning editor and sound designer Murch (In the Blink of an Eye, 2001) notes that his initial encounter with the prose of Curzio Malaparte (1898–1957) “was like falling into a dream—or nightmare—tenuously balanced on the tightrope between real and surreal.” Malaparte, a soldier in both World Wars and a volatile political thinker, was both the youngest diplomat in Italian history and an early fascist who ran afoul of Mussolini. Murch suggests that “the problematic contradictions and collisions of Malaparte’s life seem like a sped-up film of the first half of the twentieth century”; he determined to bring the enigmatic author’s work to an English audience following his experiences working on the adaptation of The English Patient. An unusual aspect of the project is his decision to present some of the prose translation in “short lines of free verse... allowing it to breathe and permitting his startling images to be savored in a more measured way.” As Murch asserts, Malaparte’s writing is indeed dramatic and affecting, reminiscent of Camus’ social alienation and the amused misanthropy of Mencken, but with the pinpoint precision of fine wartime reportage and poetic engagement with natural landscapes beset by brutality. Overall, Malaparte’s stories derive from his personal observations in politics and combat, as in the chilling “The Gun Gone Mad,” which bears witness to the Nazi bombardment of civilian Belgrade through the eyes of a diplomat’s terrified hunting dog.

Sparkling prose drives a fascinating snapshot of a literary life buffeted by the great conflicts of his time.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61902-061-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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