The unmistakable iconoclasm of Mencken resounds again in this memoir of his early days in the literary trade. The original 1,000-page manuscript, scaled in a vault for 35 years after Mencken's death, has been trimmed 60 percent by Pulitzer-winning book-critic Yardley (Our Kind of People, 1989, etc.). Many of the deleted passages evidently dwelled on the trivial—and even in the finished product only an accountant could love Mencken's itemizations of his financial affairs. Admirers might wish that Yardley had also used the blue pencil on the casually flagrant stereotypes that litter this memoir much as they did The Diary of H. L. Mencken (1989), particularly those brief but pungent comments like the one about publisher Philip Goodman, who remained Mencken's friend "until the shattering impact of Hitler made him turn Jewish on me." The autobiography lacks some of the raffish nostalgia of Mencken's Days trilogy, an absence reflecting bitterness over America's second war with his beloved Germany, but it still offers an invaluable record of Mencken's impact on American letters until the early 1920's (a 1948 stroke prevented him from chronicling his stewardship of the American Mercury and his later journalism). Mencken is justifiably proud of how he and George Jean Nathan turned the cash-starved Smart Set into a forum for America's brightest newcomers. He cheerfully recalls the feuds and quirks (often alcohol-induced) of now-obscure neophytes, as well as of the more famous, including Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Ezra Pound, and Aldous Huxley. Mencken's description of his stormy friendship with Theodore Dreiser is masterful, as admiring of the latter's clumsy genius as it is exasperated with his oafishness ("Whenever an obvious fact competed for his attention with a sonorous piece of nonsense, he went for the nonsense"). Often comically brilliant in detailing Mencken's "sharp and more or less truculent dissent from the mores of my country"—and always brutally frank about others' foibles and his own prejudices.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 1993

ISBN: 067974102X

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

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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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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...


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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