Occasionally overwritten but powerfully provocative memoir about death and drugs that is likely to attract a lot of attention.

A gifted young composer who insists that he’s “not really a writer” Cody was diagnosed with a malignant cancer that required a bone marrow transplant following six months of chemotherapy (“you’ll go through it too, almost certainly,” he writes of the chemo. “It’s part of life in the twenty-first century”). With medical expectation suggesting that he would not survive, he became involved with a series of women—romantically or sexually, often drug-fueled—in a narrative that would be deemed implausible were this fiction. The strangest woman who has the strongest hold on him also happened to be the doctor through his bone marrow transplant, an “emotionally unstable” partner who ended their relationship rather than face his death. Yet, as the author admits, “the morphine acted as the classic unreliable narrator,” as dreams and the drugs that induced them pervade the narrative, occasionally leaving readers to ponder the distinction between real life and the reality of what the author experienced in his mind. There are also extended analyses of the relationship between art and life—he’s as absorbed with Paul Klee and Ezra Pound as he is with the Rolling Stones and David Foster Wallace—and attempts to render aesthetics as algebraic equations. Some of the writing is maddeningly glib: “Times change, as Cole Porter and Eliot and the Byrds and those guys who wrote the Bible knew so well.” Some shows flashes of deep insight: “What else, after all, is creativity, if not self-permission to get something wrong, in order to subsequently reorder that something to get it right.” Ultimately, reader frustration will resolve amid the wild swings of mind and mood that the narrative captures, as the diversions of the Manhattan club circuit provide small distraction from the hard truths of mortality. A celebration of the senses, the arts and life itself, within what the author terms “a story about God and vomiting.”


Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-393-08106-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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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...


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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