Patient readers will warm to this memoir’s message to love one’s distant dad before it’s too late.

READ REVIEW

A Silent Strong Man

A MEMOIR OF LIFE, DEATH, AND LOVE

Cheng’s debut memoir offers a tribute to her father and life lessons about loving a stoic person.

When the author’s father was diagnosed with the final stage of colon cancer and faced surgery, she and her adult siblings, May, Sam, and John, rallied around his hospital bed with support. They witnessed his responses to the pain and ravages of cancer, and Cheng came to understand that her father’s reserve had been his way of protecting his children: “Father used to hide the pain in front of us to avoid us growing sad.” The bittersweet gift of his illness was to release him from the bonds of stoicism. Curiously, Cheng’s mother, as portrayed here, seems to be an indifferent caretaker of her husband, which hints at aspects of their relationship that the book doesn’t explore. The author states in the preface that she wrote the memoir to remember her father and share what she learned from her experience. To that end, she aims to honor her parent, dispel myths about silent, strong fathers like him, and prove that such distant dads need love despite their seeming invulnerability. Cheng’s journey offers readers a glimpse of contemporary Chinese culture, including family-centered festivals such as Chinese Tung Chee and Chinese New Year, herbal remedies thought to be legitimate treatments for cancer, and the belief in the healing power of mahjong. Readers should be prepared, though, for explicit descriptions of bodily functions and surprising hospital events, such as when a nurse shows the family a plastic bag holding her father’s removed organs. Cheng’s message is also sometimes obscured by phrases that require deciphering: “Peremptorily, we were sentimentally forcible-feeble.” More often, though, the not-quite-right phrasings have a certain charm: “Inexplicably, life will be somehow decorated with backfire. And such is the backfire that will, in a way, make our lives more legendary.”

Patient readers will warm to this memoir’s message to love one’s distant dad before it’s too late. 

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4828-2784-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: PartridgeSingapore

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK

STORIES

Photographer and author Stanton returns with a companion volume to Humans of New York (2013), this one with similarly affecting photographs of New Yorkers but also with some tales from his subjects’ mouths.

Readers of the first volume—and followers of the related site on Facebook and elsewhere—will feel immediately at home. The author has continued to photograph the human zoo: folks out in the streets and in the parks, in moods ranging from parade-happy to deep despair. He includes one running feature—“Today in Microfashion,” which shows images of little children dressed up in various arresting ways. He also provides some juxtapositions, images and/or stories that are related somehow. These range from surprising to forced to barely tolerable. One shows a man with a cat on his head and a woman with a large flowered headpiece, another a construction worker proud of his body and, on the facing page, a man in a wheelchair. The emotions course along the entire continuum of human passion: love, broken love, elation, depression, playfulness, argumentativeness, madness, arrogance, humility, pride, frustration, and confusion. We see varieties of the human costume, as well, from formalwear to homeless-wear. A few celebrities appear, President Barack Obama among them. The “stories” range from single-sentence comments and quips and complaints to more lengthy tales (none longer than a couple of pages). People talk about abusive parents, exes, struggles to succeed, addiction and recovery, dramatic failures, and lifelong happiness. Some deliver minirants (a neuroscientist is especially curmudgeonly), and the children often provide the most (often unintended) humor. One little boy with a fishing pole talks about a monster fish. Toward the end, the images seem to lead us toward hope. But then…a final photograph turns the light out once again.

A wondrous mix of races, ages, genders, and social classes, and on virtually every page is a surprise.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05890-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

WARHOL

An epic cradle-to-grave biography of the king of pop art from Gopnik (co-author: Warhol Women, 2019), who served as chief art critic for the Washington Post and the art and design critic for Newsweek.

With a hoarder’s zeal, Andy Warhol (1928-1987) collected objects he liked until shopping bags filled entire rooms of his New York town house. Rising to equal that, Gopnik’s dictionary-sized biography has more than 7,000 endnotes in its e-book edition and drew on some 100,000 documents, including datebooks, tax returns, and letters to lovers and dealers. With the cooperation of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the author serves up fresh details about almost every aspect of Warhol’s life in an immensely enjoyable book that blends snappy writing with careful exegeses of the artist’s influences and techniques. Warhol exploded into view in his mid-40s with his pop art paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans and silkscreens of Elvis and Marilyn. However, fame didn’t banish lifelong anxieties heightened by an assassination attempt that left him so fearful he bought bulletproof eyeglasses. After the pop successes, Gopnik writes, Warhol’s life was shaped by a consuming desire “to climb back onto that cutting edge,” which led him to make experimental films, launch Interview magazine, and promote the Velvet Underground. At the same time, Warhol yearned “for fine, old-fashioned love and coupledom,” a desire thwarted by his shyness and his awkward stance toward his sexuality—“almost but never quite out,” as Gopnik puts it. Although insightful in its interpretations of Warhol’s art, this biography is sure to make waves with its easily challenged claims that Warhol revealed himself early on “as a true rival of all the greats who had come before” and that he and Picasso may now occupy “the top peak of Parnassus, beside Michelangelo and Rembrandt and their fellow geniuses.” Any controversy will certainly befit a lodestar of 20th-century art who believed that “you weren’t doing much of anything as an artist if you weren’t questioning the most fundamental tenets of what art is and what artists can do.”

A fascinating, major work that will spark endless debates.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-229839-3

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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