Just now, as we begin to slip into a national slumber somewhat akin to that of the Eisenhower years, it’s exhilarating to...

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SAN FRANCISCO BEAT

TALKING WITH THE POETS

The recusant Beats, like a whiff of cayenne, have a way of gaining your attention, and here they direct their monkey-wrenching, fortifying voices (in 13-part disharmony) at the microphone of poet Meltzer’s tape recorder, conveying a whole lot of history and a bracing handful of ideas and opinions.

Part of this collection was published 30 years ago as The San Francisco Poets, in which five poets (Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Everson, Michael McClure, and Lew Welch) gave vent to their disarming, discomfiting, disruptive dissent, all the while playful and alive to the vernacular. To this group have been added recent interviews with Diane di Prima, Jack Hirschman, Joanne Kyger, Philip Lamantia, Meltzer, Jack Micheline, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen—plus updates with Ferlinghetti and McClure. Meltzer (Poetics/New College of Calif.) emphasizes the poets’ personal experiences and influences, which collectively is more incandescent than any of Joshua’s light shows: Hemingway, Raphael Soyer, Cocteau, Surrealism, the San Francisco Libertarian Circle, anarchist youth groups, etc. Rexroth is decidedly the most confrontational, talking of music and war and homegrown American radicalism as if his hair was on fire, while Micheline is the rawest (“I lived my poems. More than some of these intellectual bastards”). Welch also speaks of the immediate, when as a cab driver he read some of his work to his colleagues: “Goddamn, Lewie,” one said, “I don’t know whether or not that is a poem, but that is the way it is to drive a cab.” And Ferlinghetti, wonderfully, carries on from 1969 (“I have nothing to say. I haven’t got my crystal spectacles on”) to 1999 (“It’s a technophiliac consciousness that seems to be sweeping the world. And more than that, it’s that huge all-engulfing corporate monoculture”). The Beats, Meltzer urges us to remember, thought more about life than about poetry.

Just now, as we begin to slip into a national slumber somewhat akin to that of the Eisenhower years, it’s exhilarating to have this squall line of Beats pass through our consciousness.

Pub Date: June 15, 2001

ISBN: 0-87286-379-4

Page Count: 379

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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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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