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THE RESIDENCE

INSIDE THE PRIVATE WORLD OF THE WHITE HOUSE

A work of great historical interest that is also quite entertaining.

Anecdotes both touching and hilarious about living and working in the White House, “the country’s most potent and enduring symbol of the presidency.”

While journalist Brower moves by theme in presenting the memories of select long-running staff at the White House—“Controlled Chaos,” “Discretion,” “Extraordinary Demands,” “Dark Days,” etc.—there is an irresistible, charmingly pell-mell quality to the arrangement of these dishy stories. The author has managed to track down numerous former staffers—ushers, electricians, maids, butlers, chefs, and florists—to share their mostly loyal thoughts on the illustrious families they served. They (and the families themselves) often compare living in the White House to a prison, albeit a fancy one. The White House has six floors, 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces, with “shops” in the basement housing departments such as housekeeping and floral. Here, the staffers do not have the freedom to leave, and the work demands mean that they often sacrifice their own social and personal lives. First and foremost, they are fiercely devoted, sworn to be apolitical, serving each family that arrives after Inauguration Day as evenly as the next, despite emotional attachments—for example, chef Walter Scheib spent a stint teaching 17-year-old Chelsea Clinton to cook. The most delicious stories involve President Lyndon Johnson and his extreme shower demands—it needed to have multiple nozzles shooting water at fire-hydrant intensity—while the most heartbreaking delineate Jackie Kennedy’s arrangements in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. There is also an affecting glimpse of Hillary Clinton attempting to enjoy a shred of privacy at the pool amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Brower is keen to sympathize with the plight of the hardworking help. For example, in her chapter “Race and the Residence,” the author reveals the first “revolt” by the largely African-American staff to push for salary equality in the late 1960s.

A work of great historical interest that is also quite entertaining.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-230519-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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INTO THE WILD

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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