Authors tend to want to reach the maximum number of readers; Melloan, on the other hand, seems determined to drive away...

WHEN THE NEW DEAL CAME TO TOWN

A SNAPSHOT OF A PLACE AND TIME WITH LESSONS FOR TODAY

A retired Wall Street Journal editor recalls growing up in a small Midwestern town in the 1930s and strives to show the relevance to today's economic struggles across the country.

In this slim volume, Melloan (The Great Money Binge: Spending Our Way to Socialism, 2009, etc.) has actually produced three books: a meandering memoir of Whiteland, Indiana, a lightly populated farm town; a broader anecdotal, sometimes revisionist history of the Great Depression; and a screed more or less faithful to President Ronald Reagan's oft-cited quotation, “government isn't the solution to our problem, government is the problem." The memoir portions serve as the most intriguing passages of this hybrid book, although even in those chapters Melloan mixes interesting characters and situations with those of such limited interest that it seems only his close relatives might care. As the youngest of eight children born to a family that often struggled financially, Melloan understandably discusses the traits of his siblings, parents, and additional family members. Certainly a memorable character from the Whiteland area is Ralph Barger, described by the author as a hunchbacked dwarf. Melloan explains how Barger earned trust and a livelihood during difficult times. In the author’s narrative, Barger also becomes a symbol as a self-sufficient free-market capitalist rather than someone who today might exist on handouts from government welfare agencies. Throughout, Melloan praises and sometimes romanticizes farmers, truckers, railroad laborers, and other blue-collar strivers who worked hard and avoided government handouts. When Melloan turns his focus to the larger economic scenario during the 1930s and the 2000s, he delights in bashing professional economists, presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt and their political advisers, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the journalism and fiction of John Steinbeck, and many other proverbial cows, sacred or otherwise.

Authors tend to want to reach the maximum number of readers; Melloan, on the other hand, seems determined to drive away anybody who might be considered a "liberal."

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3608-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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