Uneven but mostly sharp and appealing.



An assortment of musings, cultural critiques, and memoir.

In this zesty collection of 74 pieces—some merely paragraphs—revised from work of the last 35 years, essayist, fiction writer, and biographer (of J.D. Salinger) Shields (Writer-in-Residence/Univ. of Washington; How Literature Saved My Life, 2013, etc.) reflects on family, love, contemporary culture, and his sometimes-problematic connection to other people. “I’m drawn to affectless people whose emptiness is a frozen pond on which I excitedly skate,” he admits. And: “I have trouble reading books by people whose sensibility is wildly divergent from my own.” In five sections, Shields considers Men (mostly his father); Women (many about a college sweetheart); Athletes; Performers (Oprah, Adam Sandler, Bill Murray); and Alter Egos, a motley category that contains essays on Brown, which he attended in the 1970s; infamous memoirist James Frey; and Shields’ career as a school-age athlete. “From kindergarten to tenth grade all I really did was play sports, think about sports, dream about sports,” he writes. “The body in motion is, for me, the site of the most meaning.” Beset with a severe stutter, he hoped that excelling as an athlete would make others forgive him for his “disfluency.” He shared a love of sports with his father, who suffered fom bipolar disorder and occasionally disappeared from the family for treatment. In several essays, Shields examines his Jewishness: “self-consciousness, cleverness, involution, ambivalence, pride, shame.” And he shows a particular sense of humor: he quotes comedian Milton Berle “turning down a second drink at a Catholic charity event: ‘Jews don’t drink; it interferes with our suffering.’ ” Shields credits lifelong back pain with giving him “an invaluable education in the physical, the mortal, the ineradicable wound.” He sums up what he learned: “Pain is inevitable,” one doctor told him. “Suffering is optional.” Many essays end in such aphorisms, and “Life Story” consists entirely of declarations that read like bumper stickers.

Uneven but mostly sharp and appealing.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-35199-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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