Fascinating presentation of what, for most Americans, made Kennedy who he was.

FORTY WAYS TO LOOK AT JFK

The 1,037 days of Camelot and the life preordained to produce it. What was real, and what wasn’t?

Readers who like sequentially flowing biography may initially recoil at Rubin’s approach. This isn’t what we now know about Kennedy; it’s what we’ve known all along—words, pictures, ideas, deeds—resorted and pinned together as if on a corkboard in a homicide case. But if it worked at all with the former Yale law professor’s initial subject, Winston Churchill (Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, 2003), it works to the nines with Kennedy. Her first chapter, for instance, showing JFK as an ideal leader, is followed by a critical account based on different sources. Whether Kennedy, had he lived, would have extricated the country from Vietnam is handled similarly later on, in two speculative, conflicting accounts, both convincing, that make a clear case that there were differences between his public record and his confidences to aides. It all sheds light on why historians have tended to rate his presidency considerably lower than the public recalls it. Yet Kennedy’s machinations to project an image that captured what Lincoln once pegged as “public sentiment” were so successful, Rubin argues, because he himself was a unique vehicle. The author does not shrink from delineating the scope of JFK’s promiscuity and marital infidelity; taken together, JFK’s sexual exploits represent an appalling amount of risk (appetite aside), rendering insignificant, by comparison, the dalliances of, say, Harding and Clinton. It does impinge on his greatness, Rubin allows, but doesn’t deny it.

Fascinating presentation of what, for most Americans, made Kennedy who he was.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-345-45049-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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