A well-informed perspective on early-20th-century literature.

AN UNCOMMON READER

A LIFE OF EDWARD GARNETT, MENTOR AND EDITOR OF LITERARY GENIUS

A sensitive biography of an influential editor and critic.

Like his American counterpart, famed Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins, Edward Garnett (1868-1937) nurtured a long roster of outstanding writers, including Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, D.H. Lawrence, Edward Thomas, E.M. Forster, John Galsworthy, and T.E. Lawrence. In her assured literary debut, Smith (Modern Literature/Univ. of East Anglia), director of her university’s master’s program in biography and creative nonfiction, draws on Garnett’s copious correspondence, critical writings, and memoirs of those who knew him to create a finely etched portrait of a man who exerted a quiet, decisive influence on arts and letters. From the age of 21 until his death, Garnett served as reader for several eminent publishing houses, beginning with T. Fisher Unwin, for whom he evaluated some 700 manuscripts a year, and including Heinemann, Duckworth, and Jonathan Cape, all literary publishers eager to identify new talent. “He has done more than any living writer to discover and encourage the genius of other writers,” Forster wrote, “and he has done it all without any desire for personal prestige.” Smith notes only a few instances of frustration, where he wished he had been successful for his own creative work. For the most part, though, he devoted himself to guiding other writers. He had the rare skill, she writes, “to ‘talk’ a book into being…adapting his approach to the temperament of the protégé, reassuring the timid, cajoling the reluctant and bellowing at the bloody-minded.” Smith examines Garnett’s personal as well as professional life: his devoted but unconventional marriage to Constance Garnett, an acclaimed translator of Russian literature; his siblings, friends, and lovers; the couple’s son, David, who forged a career of his own as writer and publisher. Garnett’s literary relationships could be intense: he saw Conrad as “a kindred spirit,” and he championed Crane’s “brilliant precocity.” “The born artist must be true to his own vision,” he once wrote, “the born critic to those of other men.”

A well-informed perspective on early-20th-century literature.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-28112-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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