SALEM IS MY DWELLING PLACE

A LIFE OF NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE

Major biography of ``America's first great storyteller,'' meticulously researched and admirably written by N.Y.U. English professor Miller (Melville: A Biography, 1975). Born in 1804, Hawthorne belonged to the same generation as Poe, Melville, and Whitman—that is, the first generation of US writers who sought to endow their work with an explicitly American tone and sensibility. The son of a sea captain, with family roots in Massachusetts reaching back to the early 17th century, Hawthorne was raised amid the bleak certitudes of Calvinist New England, a world as self-contained and harsh as the rocky coast of his native Salem. Introspective and melancholy as a child, he grew up an intensely secretive and reclusive man, distant from all but his wife and few close friends. Miller is prescient enough to discern the Byronic qualities of Hawthorne—the restless awkwardness, the childish solitude typical of fatherless sons—that set him apart from most of his New England contemporaries (Emerson, for example, or Longfellow) and mark him, along with Poe, as one of the few genuine Romantics ever seen in America. We are given a careful and accurate portrayal of Hawthorne's various incarnations: the sensitive youth, the troubled Utopian (Hawthorne spent six unhappy months at Brook Farm), the awkward suitor, the distant father, the literary and political schemer. What emerges most strongly from Miller's splendid chronicle is the degree to which Hawthorne's own development coincided with the birth of America's literary culture. The best, and most thorough, biography yet of Hawthorne, setting the standard against which all others will be measured. (Inclusive and up-to-date annotations and bibliography; 49 photographs and nine drawings—not seen.)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1991

ISBN: 0-87745-332-2

Page Count: 648

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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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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