DRAMA

AN ACTOR'S EDUCATION

In a tribute to his father and to his profession, the celebrated stage and screen actor rehearses his early career, cheerfully describing his successes and honestly recording his failures, professional and personal.

Lithgow, who has written eight books for children (I Got Two Dogs, 2008, etc.), begins in 2002 when his father’s health was failing rapidly. Serendipitously, the author decided to read aloud to him a story by P.G. Wodehouse, a story they both had loved when John was a child. A smile came to his father’s face, and the author believes this helped his recovery for another 18 months. (Later, we learn that the story—“Uncle Fred Flits By”—became the centerpiece of Lithgow’s one-man show Stories by Heart, a work he still performs regularly.) The author records fondly the peripatetic lifestyle of his childhood. His father, a theatrical nomad, traveled extensively, teaching, starting theater companies and festivals and mounting productions, especially of Shakespeare (one of the author’s life-long loves). His father never stayed anywhere long (his ambitions always exceeded his budgets—and, perhaps, his talent, though the author is far too kind to say so). Lithgow struggled through school—not with his studies (he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard) but with his uncertainty about whether to be an artist (painter) or actor. The latter won, of course, and Lithgow tells us about his school performances, his studies here and abroad, his tours and travails and his breaks in New York and Hollywood. He writes admiringly of his first wife—their marriage fractured when he commenced a number of torrid affairs during what he recognizes as a very late adolescence—and his subsequent 30-year marriage with his second wife, Mary. Not a complex or innovative writer, Lithgow nonetheless emerges as genial, gentle, generous, grateful, self-deprecating and proud but never arrogant.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-173497-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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