Still, a nicely gossipy inside view of a writer’s world and a beautiful yet anguished mind.

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ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF

A ROAD TRIP WITH DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

My Dinner with Andre in a rental car—Rolling Stone contributing editor Lipsky (Absolutely American: Four Years at West Point, 2003, etc.) turns in a splintered portrait of the late, great novelist.

In 1996, the author got the call to drive into the Illinois countryside to find David Foster Wallace (1962–2008) and wrestle a profile of the then-budding cult hero of literature. “I’m thirty years old, he’s thirty-four,” writes Lipsky. “We both have long hair.” They are (were) also both voracious consumers of culture, from the novels of John Updike (Wallace hates him, Lipsky doesn’t) and Stephen King (vice versa) to Saturday-morning cartoons, Steven Spielberg’s films and the latest sonic complaints of Alanis Morissette (Wallace loves her, Lipsky not so much) and the bleatings of Sheryl Crow (says Wallace, “made me want to vomit, from the very beginning”). The two set off on a whirlwind, almost-missed-the-plane tour of the ice-encrusted Upper Midwest, a matter of foggy windows, slick roads and Wallace’s constant spitting of tobacco juice into various fetid containers. Eventually they wound up at a reading in Minnesota that, if nothing else, illustrates how soul-wearying such things are to writers, especially with the inevitable first question from the audience: “Where do you get your ideas from?” In Wallace’s case, the answer is refracted across pages devoted to his wrestlings with depression and mental illness, punctuated by reminiscences of visits to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments. At other times he appears happier, if sometimes mystified by the business of fame and the strange workings of the publishing business—but very much on top of the dollars and cents and at the top of his game as a writer. Lipsky does good work in keeping up with Wallace, but in the end his book is a staccato ramble made tiresome by his mania for pointing out, endlessly, Wallace’s Midwestern pronunciations and with one too many digressions on Lipsky’s own life.

Still, a nicely gossipy inside view of a writer’s world and a beautiful yet anguished mind.

Pub Date: April 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-59243-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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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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