A vivid, candid portrait.

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SECRET HISTORIAN

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SAMUEL STEWARD, PROFESSOR, TATTOO ARTIST, AND SEXUAL RENEGADE

Provocative biography of a little-known university professor turned sex researcher and pornographer.

Art historian and curator Spring (Paul Cadmus: The Male Nude, 2002, etc.) discovered Samuel Steward’s life (1909–1993) while researching gay pulp novels and was astonished that, unlike more closeted contemporaries in Steward’s generation, his subject boasted an “extraordinary openness about his sexuality.” The author was given exclusive access to an attic in San Francisco stuffed with a “vast and bewildering collection” of Steward’s personal belongings. Raised conservative Methodist in a boardinghouse run by three spinster relatives, Steward was taught that sex was an abhorrent sin, which only fueled his erotic exploration with other men, including a clandestine dalliance with Rudolph Valentino. Though he sported a racy look and engaged in frequent sexual freewheeling, Steward excelled in school and went on to become an English instructor at Carroll College, a small Montana Catholic institution where he enjoyed years of fruitful correspondence with Gertrude Stein. However, Steward was curtly dismissed from his employ after school officials deemed his novel Angels on the Bough “obscene.” Through his engagement with Stein, he met and seduced a deeply closeted Thornton Wilder and furtively collaborated with Alfred Kinsey in the late ’40s. He eschewed academia to pursue tattooing and pen erotic novels loosely based on his “Stud File,” a “whimsically annotated and cross-referenced 746-card catalog in which Steward documented his sex life in its entirety from the years 1924 through 1974.” Under the pseudonym Phil Andros, Steward channeled his unquenchable thirst for rough trade, sailors and hustlers into a wildly uninhibited gay-fiction series. Generous excerpts from Steward’s journals and unpublished memoirs fortify an already comprehensive examination of a life lived with unabashed independence and homoerotic expression during the sexual rebellion of the pre-Stonewall era.

A vivid, candid portrait.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-28134-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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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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