Cheerful, but rather shallow and pointless.

A LITTLE BIT WICKED

LIFE, LOVE, AND FAITH IN STAGES

Innocuous memoir from tiny dynamo Chenoweth.

Achieving Broadway stardom with the musical Wicked in 2003, then appearing on television in The West Wing, Sesame Street and Pushing Daisies, the author has built an impressive showbiz résumé in a relatively short time. Classically trained, Chenoweth has sung at the Met, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. She appears in the films Running with Scissors, Stranger than Fiction and The Pink Panther. But it remains unclear why she’s releasing a memoir at this comparatively early stage in her career. Her publisher, she notes, said they found her “a person of interest.” Definitely of interest are the many topics and themes Chenoweth raises, but neither she nor co-author Rodgers (The Secret Sisters, 2006, etc.) does much with them. Born 40 years ago in Broken Arrow, Okla., the actress acquired deep, possibly conservative Christian convictions, which she continues to hold. But she only touches upon the roots of her beliefs and glides over their potential conflict with, for example, her support for gay rights. Also scanted are her rigorous studies at Oklahoma City University with Florence Birdwell, an imposing, somewhat eccentric, brutally honest voice teacher who deserves more colorful treatment than she receives here. Most frustrating of all to theater buffs, Chenoweth offers only a sketchy account of Wicked’s famously bumpy road to Broadway. Warm recollections of family members and showbiz friends, advice for the love-lorn and aspiring actors and recipes for pie and cookies round out the picture. The prose is no more than serviceable, and sometimes too cute by half: Jesus is “an issues guy,” and an airport security agent’s children are “two little-peanut-butter-and-jelly-princesses.” But Chenoweth can also be shrewd, candid and funny. For a skinny girl, she notes, she has “a pretty good pair of Mermans.”

Cheerful, but rather shallow and pointless.

Pub Date: April 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-8055-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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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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