The author’s solid research into the connections of these curiously varied men and women makes this a wonderful story of one...

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REBEL SOULS

WALT WHITMAN AND AMERICA'S FIRST BOHEMIANS

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is only the best known of Martin’s (Genius of Place: The Life of Frederick Law Olmsted, 2011, etc.) gallery of the 19th-century bohemians who haunted Pfaff’s Saloon in New York City.

The leader of this boisterous set was Henry Clapp (1814-1875), an irreverent moral relativist who thrilled in playing off his coterie of writers and artists for the best put-downs and bons mots. Clapp’s attitude sprang from his experiences in Paris’ Latin Quarter, where he met the true bohemians who formed the basis of La Vie de Bohème. They sat in Café Momus discussing, rather than producing, their art and drinking strong coffee and stronger alcohol. Mostly, they had no money, no prospects, multiple romances and lots of talk. Ultimately, these circumstances brought Clapp back to the saloon on the corner of Broadway and Bleeker Street to interact with the fascinating crowd he met there night after night. Though Whitman was often there, he was not always with Clapp’s crowd. He also spent time with new friends in the larger room, where one’s sexuality was not a matter of discussion. Many of the figures in Martin’s entertaining cultural history failed miserably, and many died young. Some like actor Edwin Booth (brother to John Wilkes) and humor writer Artemus Ward, left their marks, while others faded away. As they spread across America and the Atlantic, they met writers as diverse as Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Clapp vigorously promoted Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and gave Twain his first national break in the Saturday Press. Martin truly opens up the characters of these creative, sensitive men, examining their lives before the Civil War and the ways in which they reacted to it.

The author’s solid research into the connections of these curiously varied men and women makes this a wonderful story of one of the world’s odd little cultural cliques.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0306822261

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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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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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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