If you’re inclined to disbelieve the official record, Brady’s book, less than definitive but more than circumstantial, will...

ALGER HISS

FRAMED: A NEW LOOK AT THE CASE THAT MADE NIXON FAMOUS

Britain-based American novelist Brady (The Blue Death, 2012, etc.) offers an unusual perspective on Alger Hiss (1904-1996), the aristocrat reduced to traveling salesman.

As a young ballet dancer in New York in 1960, the author was about to marry a much older man (“fortunately nobody in the company cared about the oddities of my private life”) who was the director of the organization that published Consumer Reports. Enter Hiss, a paper salesman after having served several years in prison for perjury; he didn’t land the account, but he found good friends in the couple. All these years later, Brady serves up a nice defense of Hiss, who she believes was not guilty of espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union—but who she also believes was essentially framed by Richard Nixon, then making a name for himself as a staffer on the House Un-American Activities Committee. That allegation is not new—Victor Navasky, among others, has leveled it before—but Brady has a crime writer’s knack for ferreting out multiple lines of investigation, noting irregularities in the material evidence—e.g., a missing typewriter, a mimeograph machine capable of concocting false witness in the wrong hands—and in the documentary record, including files kept by Soviet intelligence. But she also allows that Hiss, the sort of man Nixon would have despised as well-connected, cultured, and effete, walked into some of the traps set by the prosecution, in part because he simply couldn’t believe that anyone would accuse a good public servant of wrongdoing. Brady writes with hard-boiled verve (“Hoover knew all about it. The FBI knew all about it. Freedom of Information reveals many FBI memos worried about it”) that occasionally hardens into ham-fistedness. Readers risk a little level-of-diction whiplash but to a useful end.

If you’re inclined to disbelieve the official record, Brady’s book, less than definitive but more than circumstantial, will confirm your view.

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62872-711-1

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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