THE FIFTIES

FROM NOTEBOOKS AND DIARIES OF THE PERIOD

Wilson kept extensive journals and diary entries for the entire decade of the 50's and these excerpts—beautifully edited by Edel—offer his trademark blend of crotchetiness and literary acumen. This decade opened with the death of Edna St. Vincent Millay (a former flame) and closes with Wilson's 65th birthday. Wilson's mood actually improved as he passed age 61 (the age at which his father had died). Happily married to his fourth wife, comfortably shuttling between two houses (one on Cape Cod, the other in upstate New York), Wilson was a rover no more. These journals breathe an atmosphere that Edel's introduction rightly calls "contented": "Wilson's mood is classical; he might be a writing Roman with his large senatorial head and thick body, escaping from the Imperial City for rustication." The liveliest moments here are provided by Wilson's continuously sharp—and sometimes pointy-headed—literary pronouncements and descriptions of friends (about whose foibles Wilson is seldom generous). Of "Volodya" Nabokov, he writes: "[his] idea of a literary work of art is something in the nature of a Fabergé Easter egg or other elaborate knickknack." Wilson records a meeting with Auden in which the poet "suddenly began telling us that he was no good at flagellation." Wilson travels (twice) to Europe, noting the superiority of Continental gossip and fondly watching his wife's toes (all he can see of the bed where she's reading) from his own hotel armchair. From the Bible to the Iroquois, from European fiction to the locals in upstate Talcotville, Wilson's wide-ranging interests suggest his continuing intellectual vitality. These journals form a permanent and valuable record of Wilson's interests and tastes during the 1950's; they also offer an amusing if informal social and literary history of that era.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1986

ISBN: 0374520666

Page Count: 714

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1986

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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