WE MUST LOVE ONE ANOTHER OR DIE

THE LIFE AND LEGACIES OF LARRY KRAMER

A diverse group of writers, academics, physicians, and social activists reflect, with varying levels of insight and eloquence, on the career of playwright and AIDS provocator Larry Kramer. Mass (Confessions of a Jewish Wagnerite: Being Gay and Jewish in America, 1994), a friend of Kramer's and a cofounder with him and several others of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), edits this collection of essays by 23 contributors, including playwright Tony Kushner, book editor Michael Denneny, and former GMHC director Rodger McFarlane. Their different backgrounds illustrate the mix of themes in Kramer's own life. Patrick Merla introduces readers to Kramer's major public achievements: the film Women in Love, which Kramer produced; his novel, Faggots; his plays, The Normal Heart and The Destiny of Me; AIDS organizations GMHC and Act-Up. The scope of Kramer's life and work is not so large that this collection can escape being wearisomely repetitive. The best essays relate a focused piece of Kramer's life, politics, or art to a broader framework, such as the history of gay theater, the African-American community, heterosexual families, or W.H. Auden's poetry (in pieces by Michael Paller, Canaan Parker, Sarah Trillin, and Alfred Corn, respectively). In an elegiac essay, Andrew Holleran reflects on the gay artist's world of the past 20 years, and Kramer's successful negotiation within it of the writer's block that is AIDS. Kramer himself has the last word, in an interview that closes the book, leaving the reader with a sense of his genuine, if conflicted, humanity. Tributes to those still living run the risk of grandiosity, to which the long collection sometimes succumbs; all but fervent admirers of Kramer's should read selectively.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 1998

ISBN: 0-312-17704-6

Page Count: 405

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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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