THE LETTERS OF GERTRUDE STEIN AND THORNTON WILDER

By giving both sides of an ongoing written conversation, this useful collection offers an unusual portrait of a long and important literary friendship. From Stein's thank-you note written in late 1934, the month after Stein and Wilder first met in Chicago, to Wilder's 1946 note of condolence to Alice Toklas following Stein's death, the letters record a warm friendship marked by a sharing of ideas, friends, and (perhaps not least significantly) a belief in Stein's genius. Wilder is the chattier of the two, whether reporting from Vienna that he has visited Freud, who informs him that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's works, or from New York, noting that Mabel Luhan's effort to hold a weekly salon has failed. Wilder is forthright in discussing Stein's influence on his work, and in a 1937 letter says that the third act of Our Town "is based on your ideas, as on great pillars." That Stein in turn appreciates Wilder's talent is apparent in her attempt to persuade him to collaborate on her novel Ida: "a really truly novel is too much for me all alone we must do it together." Throughout, the letters are enhanced by thorough annotations that help make them accessible to a wide audience by supplying details on contemporary events and people, explaining allusions, offering speculations, and even editorializing when, the editors say, "texts appear to ask for it." Likewise, the addition of useful supplementary appendices (on Stein's 1934-35 U.S. lecture tour; and on what occupied Wilder and Stein during WW II, when they exchanged few letters) help round out the scene surrounding the correspondence. Perhaps the most convincing marker of the success of this collection is that, in addition to conveying so much about these correspondents, it prompts one to regret anew the decline of letter writing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-300-06774-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

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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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