Some vulnerability mixed with crass, frat-boy humor.

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THE MEMOIR

The story of how a "white trash troublemaker" from Scottsdale created a successful career as a comedic supporting character in TV and movies.

In his first book, Spade details the years before the fame—feeling ashamed to borrow money from friends, crashing on their couches in Los Angeles and New York, accepting low-paying gigs at comedy clubs—and his disappointment even after getting the plum job for which he is perhaps best known: a cast member on Saturday Night Live. He started out as a "lowly writer/performer,” not an on-stage performer, a position he craved, and he explains how he often he felt he was “legitimately in over my head.” Nonetheless, Spade remained in the writers' room, frustrated as he was “punching up sketches that I wasn’t in (sour grapes alert).” It took several seasons before he finally found his voice as an important recurring character: the sarcastic Hollywood correspondent on the show’s "Weekend Update” segment. The author educates readers on the mechanics of putting together a weekly, 90-minute, live comedy show—e.g., why the sketch that closes the show is dubbed the "5-to-1"—and his anecdotes about the show’s hosts and musical acts are mostly amusing. His kinship with fellow SNL cast member Chris Farley remained strong throughout their shared, blockbuster movie career—though the author devotes only a short chapter to Farley's premature death. In recounting his adolescence, Spade recalls that he wasn't the class clown: "I wasn't the loud attention getter.” Curiously, the author provides scant acknowledgment of his TV work on Just Shoot Me! and Rules of Engagement, and he barely mentions his nominations for several industry awards. He does, however, provide copious, often crude accounts of his disappointments with his early sex life—and his successes later on.

Some vulnerability mixed with crass, frat-boy humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-237697-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2015

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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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