LIFE IS SO GOOD

The memoir of George Dawson, who learned to read when he was 98, places his life in the context of the entire 20th century in this inspiring, yet ultimately blighted, biography. Dawson begins his story with an emotional bang: his account of witnessing the lynching of a young African-American man falsely accused of rape. America’s racial caste system and his illiteracy emerge as the two biggest obstacles in Dawson’s life, but a full view of the man overcoming the obstacles remains oddly hidden. Travels to Ohio, Canada, and Mexico reveal little beyond Dawson’s restlessness, since nothing much happens to him during these wanderings. Similarly, the diverse activities he finds himself engaging in—bootlegging in St. Louis, breaking horses, attending cockfights—never really advance the reader’s understanding of the man. He calls himself a “ladies’ man” and hints at a score of exciting stories, but then describes only his decorous marriage. Despite the personal nature of this memoir, Dawson remains a strangely aloof figure, never quite inviting the reader to enter his world. In contrast to Dawson’s diffidence, however, Glaubman’s overbearing presence, as he repeatedly parades himself out to converse with Dawson, stifles any momentum the memoir might develop. Almost every chapter begins with Glaubman presenting Dawson with a newspaper clipping or historical fact and asking him to comment on it, despite the fact that Dawson often does not remember or never knew about the event in question. Exasperated readers may wonder whether Dawson’s life and his accomplishments, his passion for learning despite daunting obstacles, is the tale at hand, or whether the real issue is his recollections of Archduke Ferdinand. Dawson’s achievements are impressive and potentially exalting, but the gee-whiz nature of the tale degrades it to the status of yet another bowl of chicken soup for the soul, with a narrative frame as clunky as an old bone.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50396-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1999

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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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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