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THE BOTTOM FEEDERS

FROM FREE LOVE TO HARD CORE--THE RISE AND FALL OF COUNTERCULTURE HEROES JIM AND ARTIE MITCHELL

Sex, drugs, money, death: The saga of the Mitchell brothers has it all—which, no doubt, is why this is the second book about these trend-setting pornographers, one of whom killed the other, to appear in recent months (a third, by Warren Hinckle and Susan Cheever, has been postponed indefinitely). Happily, Hubner's intensively researched account is every bit as compelling as David McCumber's X-Rated (1992), and complements it nicely. Though Hubner (the Pulitzer-winning San Jose Mercury News journalist who coauthored 1988's superb exposÇ of the Hare Krishnas, Monkey on a Stick) doesn't write with the same explosive flair as McCumber, he livens his straightforward prose with key exclusive interviews, including one with Marilyn Chambers, whom the Mitchells launched into porno superstardom. With input from the Ivory Snow-girl and others, Hubner focuses more tightly than McCumber on the business/artistic aspects of the Mitchells' rise from obscure makers of penny-ante porno loops in the late 60's to rich and notorious creators of the porn classic Behind the Green Door and proprietors of San Francisco's infamous O'Farrell Theater. It's a savvy, sexually explicit report, and also jaw-dropping as the Mitchells' sense of sex as theater unfolds (one O'Farrell innovation was ``The Streets of Paris,'' a room containing a cobblestone street, wrought-iron balustrades, and doorways from which women beckoned men to sex). Hubner's quiet approach doesn't convey the drug-induced madness growing inside Artie Mitchell's head with the same intensity as did McCumber's flaming pages—but Hubner compresses the trial of Jim Mitchell for blowing away his brother into far fewer—and more cogent—pages than did McCumber. And so the Mitchells' story is replayed again, and in the retelling begins to take on the dimensions of another uniquely American myth of talent, excess, and tragedy, one to be put alongside those of JFK, Marilyn, and Elvis. (Twenty-five b&w photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-42261-X

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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