A meaningful memoir about displacement and the literary imagination that occasionally gets lost in scholarly thought.


Webb (Rereading the Nineteenth Century, 2010, etc.) tells the story of his childhood in Slovakia during World War II and of his later entrance into American academia.

In 1943 in the village of Malacky, Slovakia, the young, Jewish author and his family initially avoided the horrors of the Holocaust, as his father was deemed one of the “Jews Necessary to the Economy.” However, the following year, the author’s grandparents were seized by the Nazis, and the rest of the family fled. After the war, they relocated to Quito, Ecuador, and then to Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood. Among the many wonders of American life, the author says that he was fascinated by an X-ray box at a shoe store, used for sizing. His mother wanted him to pass as a Christian, so he attended a Catholic church and actually became a believer (“My poor mother was flabbergasted to find me a prostrate penitent ambitious for salvation”). Later, at Stanford University, he studied literature, and while pursuing graduate work in London in the 1960s, he met and married a fellow anti-war activist, and in the ’70s, he befriended literary superstar Philip Roth. Throughout, there are extensive ruminations on great literary minds, particularly the Czech-born novelists Ivan Klíma and Milan Kundera and the 18th-century English poet Christopher Smart, who was a source of endless inspiration to the author. A pivotal moment in the memoir comes when Webb travels back to Malacky to confront a reviled aunt and learn the true story of his grandparents’ terrible fate. His account of his childhood is full of vivid tales about Slovakia, and he shows how his early life shaped his worldview. The book has an unusual, nonlinear structure that ultimately gives readers a full picture of a life consumed—first, by the early experience of being forced into exile, and later by the literary imagination of great writers. The sections on literature work best during scenes set in London, where Webb interacted personally with writers such as Roth; in other parts, though, the references can be somewhat dense or pedantic.

A meaningful memoir about displacement and the literary imagination that occasionally gets lost in scholarly thought.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-948017-02-2

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Dos Madres Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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