A thoroughly engaging monograph.

UPTON SINCLAIR

CALIFORNIA SOCIALIST, CELEBRITY INTELLECTUAL

Coodley (California: A Multicultural Documentary History, 2008, etc.) claims that Sinclair (1878–1968)—social justice advocate, California gubernatorial candidate and author of the classic The Jungle—deserves to be viewed through a feminist lens.

Unlike most men of his era, Sinclair understood women's issues and advocated effectively for them. Coodley painstakingly explains Sinclair's interactions with his female family members, his wives and various feminists—some of them well-known (e.g., Jane Addams, Margaret Sanger, Helen Keller, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn), some of them nearly forgotten. (In an appendix, Coodley lists his “women friends,” along with citations for readers interested in learning more about each one.) Since the story behind Sinclair's traveling to Chicago in his early 20s to investigate meatpacking practices in the stockyards has been told countless times, Coodley mostly avoids discussion of The Jungle and instead focuses on some of Sinclair's many other books and pieces for periodicals. The child of an alcoholic, Sinclair campaigned in favor of temperance, often thought of as a "woman's issue," understanding as he did the ill effects of alcoholism on the family unit, especially wives and mothers. The range of issues for which Sinclair sought reform affected the poor more than the middle class or wealthy, and his sincere compassion comes across as boundlessly admirable. Coodley refers multiple times to exemplary full-length biographies of Sinclair and does not pretend to cover his entire life in depth in such a slim volume. Rather, she hopes to ignite curiosity in readers, who will then study Sinclair's life more fully by consulting his own writings and other biographies.

A thoroughly engaging monograph.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8032-4382-8

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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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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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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