by Jay Parini ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 4, 2020
A captivating chronicle and homage.
The renowned biographer, novelist, and poet recounts his transformative youthful journey with a famed literary master.
In 1971, when he was a graduate student at St. Andrews University in Scotland, Parini took two short journeys—here combined into one weeklong trip in order to maintain “narrative efficiency”—in the company of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), who was visiting one of Parini’s mentors. At the time, Parini had not read anything Borges had written, and he was surprised that his friends not only knew of the Argentine writer, but held him in the highest esteem. At first, Parini saw Borges only as a garrulous, “difficult and self-involved” old man, given to nostalgic memories of a lost love and disquisitions on an astonishing range of literature. He needed constant attention due to his blindness and constant acquiescence to his impetuous needs. Still, Parini agreed to squire Borges around the Scottish Highlands, serving as his guide, aide, and, especially, his eyes. Parini delivers vibrant descriptions of clouds and rain, earth and sun: “the bright lakes, the fertile land with stone barns and hillsides smudged with white-and-gray sheep,” the oaks with crooked limbs, and the dark waters of Loch Ness, in which their rowboat capsized. Parini decided that one should never take a “childlike, irascible, and unpredictable” old blind man in a rowboat. But by the end of their travels together, Parini realized that Borges was extraordinary: a man who glowed with “an enigmatic brilliance. One felt somehow more intelligent, more learned and witty, in his presence. The universe itself felt more pliable and yielding, and so available.” Parini’s vividly detailed memoir, replete with verbatim conversations, is the result of much shaping and retelling, first in fragments over the years, later as a novel, and then as “a kind of novelistic memoir,” which, Parini writes, “survives in its transformation into this text.”A captivating chronicle and homage.
Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020
Page Count: 320
Review Posted Online: April 25, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.
Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Pub Date: July 12, 2022
Page Count: 192
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022
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