SHOPTALK

Interview/profiles from the 1970's—when Brown wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other newspapers—with mini-updates that don't really manage to dispel the musty aroma of old news clippings. Still, only one of the pieces—a repetitious, maudlin visit with actor/playwright Jason Miller (That Championship Season)- -registers simply as much dated ado about nothing. The other interview-subjects are either important enough, or entertaining enough, to remain at least sporadically engaging. Lanford Wilson discusses the intriguing role of director Marshall Mason in the evolution of Talley's Folly. Frank D. Gilroy, John Patrick (Teahouse of the August Moon), and, especially, William Goldman are amusing on the vagaries of Hollywood filmmaking. Edward Albee, predictably sour, rails at ``the John Simons of the world,'' while forgotten playwright Mary Mercier (Johnny No-Trump) is gently bitter about her far more devastating experience with the New York critics. Superproducer David Merrick is cheerfully straightforward about his flops; Horton Foote is eminently practical about his quiet, productive, multimedia career. There are very sketchy chats with Tennessee Williams and (separately) his mother (no surprises); with Alan Jay Lerner, William Inge, and Richard Wilbur (Broadway lyricist and former poet laureate, warning that ``almost anybody going seriously into musical theater is bound to find himself used and cheated and alienated''). And, throughout, Brown fills things out with quotes from other show-folk—and with his own comments, which range from astute to fatuous to portentous. (On Inge in decline: ``No longer did he know what was his right in his world. No longer was the path clear.'') Minor moments with some major (and not-so-major) talents; diverting and informative in spots. (Fourteen b&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: June 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55704-128-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Newmarket Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992

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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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