Filthier than it needs to be, more self-aggrandizing than it should be, but more inspiring than you’d think it could be.

TOUGH SH*T

LIFE ADVICE FROM A FAT, LAZY SLOB WHO DID GOOD

The slacker raconteur (slackonteur?) chronicles his offbeat career while seeking to inspire the next generation of creative thinkers.

Since bursting onto the indie scene with Clerks in 1994, Smith (My Boring Ass Life: The Uncomfortably Candid Diary of Kevin Smith, 2007, etc.) has carved out a unique niche, writing and directing a string of movies both critically praised (generally for the sharp writing) and panned (often for the lackluster directing), while also developing a cult following as a pop culture lecturer extraordinaire. Drawing on experiences from his eclectic career, he presents a mixed bag of self-deprecating humor, self-satisfied mooning, gossipy snark and a few truly golden nuggets of wisdom. Among the narrative’s high (or low) points are Smith’s contention that directing Bruce Willis was the equivalent of being held hostage by Hans Gruber; the tale of how mentor Harvey Weinstein, whom Smith has loyally defended for years, stiffed him at the opening of Smith’s Red State (the two haven’t spoken since); an in-depth account of Smith’s well-publicized eviction from a Southwest Airlines flight for being overweight; and a graphic description of a bout of self-gratification, which transpired as he stood behind his grudgingly tolerant, naked wife as she readied herself for an evening out. Though his never-ending cavalcade of bodily fluid–filled jokes wears thin, there’s a fascinating revelation within these pages: Despite having produced beloved and influential indie movies and critically acclaimed comics, Smith’s most innovative creation might just be Kevin Smith—a foul-mouthed, blarney-tongued pop culture savant who has built a touring and podcasting empire by mixing piquant loquacity with a heavy dose of Jersey earthiness.

Filthier than it needs to be, more self-aggrandizing than it should be, but more inspiring than you’d think it could be.

Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-592-40689-0

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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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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