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A MEMOIR OF MY LIFE BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER MY DEATH

A fragmented, occasionally powerful memoir about life and death.
Swan’s debut memoir chronicles his life leading up to a near-death experience, the strange beauty of the experience itself and the changes in his life thereafter. During an angioplasty on Jan. 12, 2010, a rare blood clot formed around a stent in Swan’s heart, sending him into cardiac arrest and medical death. According to Swan’s elliptical prose, surgeons and family members claim to have witnessed a miracle: Against all odds and despite incredible blood loss, potentially problematic disinfection procedures and probable brain damage, Swan pulled through the surgery, returning to the world after a brief death. Doctors claimed “there must have been something inside [Swan] that made [him] want to survive.” Questioning whether divine intervention could occur and comparing his experience with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Swan is careful not to rush too hastily toward explanations. He stitches his memoir together out of journal entries, passages from medical records and flashbacks as he lets the events speak for themselves, though he often includes associative metaphors or other tidbits to broaden his struggle’s context. Some of these inclusions feel like perfect interpolations, such as his invocation of the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion reassembling the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz; others seem barely relevant, such as details about mad cow disease and the problems it created with blood donation. Still, Swan’s most powerful writing occurs in his clear articulation of the state he entered as he died, and the memoir would suffer if it were to lose its Melville-ian ephemera, since the details about biology, the epigraphs and the clips of medical records all provide exciting stylistic shifts against some of the work’s drier biographical details.
Despite a lack of focus, these deeply human evocations never succumb to emotional or supernatural melodrama as they detail Swan’s brief afterlife and his grappling with death and its aftermath.

Pub Date: April 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990028000

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Stewart and Hobbs Publishing House, LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2014

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NUTCRACKER

This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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