A surprising side of Poe splendidly revealed.



The prolific fiction writer, poet, and literary critic viewed through a scientific lens.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is synonymous with the grotesque. Tresch, professor of the history of art, science, and folk practice at the Warburg Institute, wants us to think of Poe as a scientist, as well. Tresch’s expansive biography takes the chronological road, with Poe “at the center of the maelstrom of American science in the first half of the nineteenth century.” Enamored by science as a young man, Poe wrote “Sonnet—To Science” in 1830. Arguing against other critics, who claim that the poem criticizes science, Tresch argues that Poe writes in praise of science. In fact, the sonnet “laid out a program for Poe’s life’s work.” At West Point, he studied mathematics, geometry, and astronomy, all of which “decisively shaped his career as a poet, critic, and author.” In Baltimore in 1833, Poe won a fiction contest for “MS. Found in a Bottle,” in which he balanced scientific language with catastrophic revelation. Near starvation, he was saved by a job at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond. His stories and essays on science were warmly received, but he was soon let go. In New York, he wrote The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a novel about the “quest for discovery and its costs.” In 1839, he secured a position at The Gentleman’s Magazine in Philadelphia, where scientific innovation was thriving. Testing “new literary formulas,” he wrote his most distinctive tales, solidified his “reputation for scientific acumen,” championed the art of photography, explored code cracking, and wrote a scientific textbook, The Conchologist’s First Book. Surprisingly, it was his only bestseller. Meanwhile, Poe’s drinking and his wife’s death were affecting his health. He hoped his ambitious new book and lecture tour on cosmology, Eureka, (a “serious mess, a glorious mess, but a mess”) would help him gain back his popularity. He died a year later. Throughout, Tresch does a fine job balancing insightful discussions of Poe’s literary works alongside his intriguing scientific pursuits.

A surprising side of Poe splendidly revealed.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-24785-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.

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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

ISBN: 978-1-250-27827-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2022

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A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.


A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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