MODIGLIANI

THE PURE BOHEMIAN

Colorful biography of the painter Amedeo Modigliani (1884- 1920), set against the art world of Paris during the first two decades of the century. Modigliani, explains British biographer Rose (Elizabeth Fry, 1981—not reviewed), was the product of an upper-class Jewish- Italian family. After art studies in Livorno, Florence, and Venice, where he spent more time in cafes and brothels than in class, he arrived in Paris in 1906, seeking fame and fortune. Within weeks, the somber reality of poverty set in—moving from seedy hotel to seedy hotel, he wound up living in a wooden shack in Montmartre. There, and later in Montparnasse, he met many of the foremost artists, writers, and ``characters'' of the day, including Picasso, Soutine, Utrillo, Cocteau, Hans Arp, and Fernand LÇger. Because of his success with women, Modigliani had easy access to free models (``Women of a beauty worth painting or sculpting often seem encumbered by their clothes,'' he said). Rose seems torn between downplaying what she refers to as the ``Modigliani myth'' and relating dozens of stories that have served to create that myth. Included are accounts of how Modigliani danced wildly in the moonlight with a famous courtesan; of how one of his first collectors was a senior police official who first met the painter when he was jailed for drunkenness; and of how the artist's only one-man gallery show was closed ``for indecency'' the day it opened. Rose does attempt to disentangle fact from fiction as she meticulously cites her sources for each anecdote, and she points out that it is the work that distinguishes the artist, not the antics. The day after Modigliani died from tubercular meningitis at age 35, his young wife killed herself. Prices for his paintings have skyrocketed ever since. Despite the somewhat misleading subtitle, this is not a paean to la vie de la bohäme, but a tragic story of art transcending life. (Eight color, 64 b&w illustrations.)

Pub Date: Nov. 21, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-06416-0

Page Count: 264

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1991

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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