ADVENTURER

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GIACOMO CASANOVA

An authoritative, richly detailed portrait of a fascinating historical character and another top-notch work from Damrosch.

A vivid chronicle of the passions of an 18th-century libertine.

Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) has been the subject of many biographies, based largely on edited and sometimes sanitized versions of his Histoire de ma vie, in which he recounted more than 100 sexual conquests, relentless travels, and a lifetime spent perpetrating scams and cons. Damrosch, an award-winning biographer of Jonathan Swift, William Blake, and others, offers a close critical study of the original manuscript and of supplementary texts that include hundreds of pages of unpublished works. The result is a nuanced, deftly contextualized biography of an adventurer, an opportunist, and a man of voracious appetites who was determined to free himself from all manner of repression. He was, Damrosch writes, not “just a bad boy, he was a particular kind of bad boy” whose sexual encounters were “opportunistic and [sometimes] disturbingly exploitative.” He engaged in pedophilia (though, as Damrosch explains, the age of consent at the time was 10), incest, and gang rape; claimed to have occult powers; and lost fortunes gambling. Born to actors in Venice, Casanova imbibed the spirit of the swarming, culturally diverse city. The major industry, Damrosch writes, “was pleasure,” and Casanova, drawn to role-playing, fascinated by cross-dressing, and an “instinctive improvisor,” thrived there. Damrosch hews closely to the narrative of the Histoire, testing Casanova’s version—and the analyses of previous biographers—against available historical evidence. Still, his portrait is not a corrective to what is already well known but rather an amplification. Although he states at the outset that “the story of a notorious seducer needs to be addressed frankly and critically,” Damrosch ably demonstrates his subject’s energy and intelligence, “the joie de vivre, the enormous risks and hair-raising escapes, the lifelong struggle to invent and reinvent himself,” as well as his impressive talent in creating a memoir “bursting with vitality”—an apt description for this beautifully illustrated biography.

An authoritative, richly detailed portrait of a fascinating historical character and another top-notch work from Damrosch.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-300-24828-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

THE ELEPHANTS OF THULA THULA

A heartwarming and inspiring story for animal lovers.

The third volume in the Elephant Whisperer series.

In this follow-up to An Elephant in My Kitchen, Malby-Anthony continues her loving portrait of the Thula Thula wildlife reserve, which she co-founded in 1998 with her late husband, South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who published the first book in the series, The Elephant Whisperer, in 2009. Following his death in 2012, Malby-Anthony sought to honor his legacy by continuing his vision “to create a massive conservancy in Zululand, incorporating our land and other small farms and community land into one great big game park.” At the same time, the elephants gave her “a sense of purpose and direction.” In the Zulu language, thula means quiet, and though the author consistently seeks to provide that calm to her charges, peace and tranquility are not always easy to come by at Thula Thula. In this installment, Malby-Anthony discusses many of the challenges faced by her and her staff, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. These included an aggressive, 2-ton rhino named Thabo; the profound loss felt by all upon the death of their elephant matriarch, Frankie; difficulty obtaining permits and the related risk of having to relocate or cull some of their animals; the fear of looting and fire due to civil unrest in the region; and the ongoing and potentially deadly struggles with poachers. Throughout, the author also shares many warm, lighthearted moments, demonstrating the deep bond felt among the humans and animals at the reserve and the powerful effects of the kindness of strangers. “We are all working in unity for the greater good, for the betterment of Thula Thula and all our wildlife….We are humbled by the generosity and love, both from our guests and friends, and from strangers all around the world,” writes the author. “People’s open-hearted support kept us alive in the darkest times.”

A heartwarming and inspiring story for animal lovers.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9781250284259

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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