A uniquely talented writer and performer offers up an unexpectedly uncommon approach to autobiographical writing.


Tough times spur a popular stand-up comedian and actor to dive deep into her own inimitable psyche.

In Slate’s (Marcel the Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me, 2011) intriguing inner world, raindrops are “wet water bloops” that fall unexpectedly from the sky, and brassieres are “cotton cup bags” that respectable ladies are obliged to don before heading out to dinner. The use of deconstructed language allows the author to move beyond the banal and replace it with something that more closely approximates her singular experience of being alive. Whether joyous or sad, Slate’s personal journey hasn’t always been lighthearted. Indeed, the author feels moved to describe herself as “dying” on multiple occasions throughout her life. She is concerned with many other things, as well, including the nature of lovelorn ghosts and the ethereal goodness of dogs. Underneath the gauzy, shimmering scaffolding, however, is an all-too-universal story about heartbreak, depression, and a failed marriage: “One man was gone from my life just about the time that another man pig-snorted his way into the presidency….I didn’t know how or why to give myself small pleasures.” Through it all, she has found solace in a circle of good friends and the redemptive powers of a neat house and an incredible garden. Slate seems to fit so comfortably inside the poetic realms of her impressive imagination that she has no need to abandon them, not even when she is rebuking the pernicious ugliness of male patriarchy, another element that has heavily impacted her life. In one particularly powerful interlude, the author achieves biblical grandeur, envisioning herself ripping out the ancient evil root and stem. “I take one last good look at that poison pod and I just go ahead and fling it,” she writes. “I fling that pod back into the gloomy section of outer space that is for bad gods with sickly and sour spirits.”

A uniquely talented writer and performer offers up an unexpectedly uncommon approach to autobiographical writing.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-48534-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

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


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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