MISFIT

THE STRANGE LIFE OF FREDERICK EXLEY

The rise and fall of a one-book wonder, told by the Pulitzer Prizewinning Washington Post literary critic. If Exley's raucous ``fictional memoir'' of failure, fame, and football, A Fan's Notes, is a cult book, then Yardley (Ring: A Biography of Ring Lardner, 1977) has been a steadfast apostle. Since its publication in 1968, he has promoted it in his newspaper writing and written an introduction to the Modern Library edition (to be published simultaneously with this biography). He was also a distant friend to Exley, ``the most elusive and mysterious of men,'' a charming and exasperating ne'er-do-well, sponger, and barstool-propping man of letters. Despite this relationship, Yardley proves tough and objective in re-creating Exley's life, which differs little in substance from A Fan's Notes. Exley (192992) was the feckless younger son of the local football hero of Watertown, a small upstate New York burg. This might have been the son's only claim to fame had he not written a book that Yardley ranks alongside Invisible Man and The Adventures of Augie March for its evocation of a young man's disaffection with the American Way. A Fan's Notes apart, the biographic trail is scant in the early years, but Yardley connects Exley's departure from mainstream life not only to his father's early death and his failed romance as an adolescent with a WASP debutante, but also to a car accident that ended his own mediocre football career and presumably gave him a taste of mortality. As much as he is a fan of Exley's debut, he dismisses as ``honorable failures'' his later Pages from a Cold Island and Last Notes from Home, which follow the self-mythologizing, vagabond contours of Fitzgeraldian romanticism and Hemingwayesque machismo in chronicling Exley's alcoholism and failed marriages. Misfit adds a dark, factual foundation to Exley's one lasting book. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-43949-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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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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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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