A perceptive, well-wrought picture of an iconic figure well worth admiring—from a distance.

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STEVE JOBS

THE MAN WHO THOUGHT DIFFERENT

An admiring though not entirely adulatory view of our era’s greatest technology celebrity, rightly dubbed (by U2’s Bono) “the hardware software Elvis.”

Blumenthal weaves her portrait on the thematic frame used by Jobs himself in his autobiographical 2005 Stanford commencement address. She “connects the dots” that led him from his adoption as an infant through his "phone phreaking" days to a spectacular rise and just as meteoric fall from corporate grace in the 1980s. Following a decade of diminished fortunes and largely self-inflicted complications in personal relationships, he returned to Apple for a spectacular second act that also turned out to be his final one. Despite getting bogged down occasionally in detail, the author tells a cohesive tale, infused with dry wit (“He also considered going into politics, but he had never actually voted, which would have been a drawback”). The book is thoroughly researched and clear on the subject’s foibles as well as his genius.

A perceptive, well-wrought picture of an iconic figure well worth admiring—from a distance. (Biography. 11-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-250-01445-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

THE MAKING OF A LEGEND

A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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FATHER ABRAHAM

LINCOLN AND HIS SONS

Trailing the stampede of Lincoln-bicentennial studies, this profile of “the clan that might have become America’s royal family but instead became America’s cursed family” offers both a wagonload of fascinating period photos and a case study in domestic tragedy and dysfunction. Leading Lincoln scholar Holzer portrays his presidential paterfamilias as an absentee saint—away on business for much of his four sons’ formative years but ever loving and gentle with his notably histrionic wife and an indulgent pushover who let his lads run hog wild. Conversely, though devastated by 3-year-old Eddie’s death in 1850 and 11-year-old Willie’s in 1862, his relations with Robert (the eldest and the only child to live past his teens, presented here as thoroughly unlikable) were distant at best. If the author sometimes hobbles his narrative with fussy details, he also tucks in such intimate touches as samples of homely verse from both parents and children and finishes off with quick looks at all of the direct descendants. A natural companion for Candace Fleming’s fine The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary (2008). (endnotes, adult-level bibliography) (Biography. 11-14)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59078-303-0

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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