A valuable guide to one of the most remarkable works of a musical giant whose undeniable genius continues to resonate...

BEETHOVEN'S EROICA

THE FIRST GREAT ROMANTIC SYMPHONY

Novelist and nonfiction author Hamilton-Paterson (Blackbird: The Story of the Lockheed SR-71 Spy Plane, 2017, etc.) delves into the cultural and historical impact of Beethoven's groundbreaking third symphony, the “Eroica.”

It is difficult to imagine what it must have felt like for the first listeners of the legendary composer’s third symphony, a work that changed the game for all music thereafter. To modern ears, it may not sound radically different to previous "classical" works of Mozart or Haydn. However, at the time of its first performance in 1804, nothing like it had ever been heard before, to the extent that even the musicians thought there must be mistakes in the score. The author takes readers back to that time, and earlier, with a detailed history and biography of the composer and the events and people who shaped his writing. Hamilton-Paterson addresses the ongoing question of Napoleon's influence on the composition—which, at one point, was dedicated to him by Beethoven—acknowledging the difficulty of interpreting the composer's intent while maintaining that understanding the historical and personal context "adds much interest" to the work for its audience. Along with the shadow of Napoleon, the myth of Prometheus and the personal tragedy of Beethoven's worsening deafness loom over the creation of the “Eroica,” which the author traces from before its composition, through its initial reception, to its lasting influence. Hamilton-Paterson also offers detailed musical analysis of the work, and though he helpfully provides definitions and background for many of the musical forms and structures discussed, a working knowledge of music theory and classical music history will serve readers well—though novices with an interest in the material should not be deterred.

A valuable guide to one of the most remarkable works of a musical giant whose undeniable genius continues to resonate centuries after his death.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5416-9736-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2017

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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