THE DIARY OF H.L. MENCKEN

Sealed for 25 years since his death in 1956, the diaries of the once popular critic and newspaperman only now have been edited from the original manuscript, which is three times longer than the selections brought together here by Mencken scholar Fecher. Though something of an event for Menckenites, the publication of these diaries reveals little that wasn't already known from the famous curmudgeon's voluminous publications. What is new here isn't very pleasant, and even Fecher—a devout Mencken defender—admits the uglier aspects of these less inhibited jottings. Mencken proves to be both a racist and an anti-Semite, as many have long suspected, though not quite as vehement in his prejudices as Fecher suggests in his informative introduction. Written during the Thirties and Forties, the diaries follow Mencken's decline in popularity—temporarily forestalled by the succes of his American Language series—and reflect none of the excitement of his heyday as a critic and editor. By the Thirties, Mencken no longer championed writers such as Dreiser, but in fact found him an "incurable lout," and Sinclair Lewis an alcoholic "psycopath." Despite cameos by a drunken Faulkner, a charming Fitzgerald, a dull T.S. Eliot, and a manic Ezra Pound, the literary celebs in these pages are mostly second-rate and in decline themselves. Mencken hobnobs with politicians, medical men from Johns Hopkins, and journalists, but spends most of his time recording what he ate and drank, as well as the aftereffects, for he was clearly a hypochondriac, recording every heart palpitation and gas bubble. Much of the diary follows the internal affairs of The Baltimore Sun, with which Mencken remained affiliated long after he ceased writing for it, and the publishing house of Alfred Knopf, on whose board Mencken sat. Throughout the war years, Mencken remains true to his isolationist and libertarian principles, reserving his greatest invective for that "mountebank" FDR. Hardly the American Samuel Johnson (as Fecher avers), Mencken isn't even equal to Edmund Wilson, whose own diaries contribute to literary history in a way Mencken's seldom do.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 1989

ISBN: 039456877X

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1989

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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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