OLD BOOKS, RARE FRIENDS

TWO LITERARY SLEUTHS AND THEIR SHARED PASSION

This breezy dual autobiography of two writers and antiquarian- book dealers points up their extraordinary accomplishment in spheres of endeavor long dominated by men. Octogenarian New Yorkers Rostenberg, a historian of early printers and commentator on bibliographical subjects, and Stern, biographer and unmasker of Louisa May Alcott as the unknown writer of ``blood-and-thunder'' thrillers, have been friends since they were students at Columbia University and Barnard College, respectively. In alternating chapters the two detail their early lives, educations, and experiences as innocents abroad, but their story doesn't really heat up until the young Stern, with the economic freedom of a Guggenheim Foundation grant, begins working with clues from Little Women and other sources, as well as some key help from her friend Leona, to lay out the record of Alcott's ``deviational narratives,'' written pseudonymously for the pulp magazines of her day. For Rostenberg, with her academic background in 15th-century books, or incunabula, professional appreciation of vellum, morocco, and calfskin was a natural path. Descriptions of their publications and the growth of their joint business are coupled with firsthand accounts of rare book and pamphlet discoveries abroad and sales to US libraries and academic institutions. Highlights include the sale in the 1960s of several en bloc collections, such as that of the inimitable 16th-century imprint the Aldine Press, Venice, and a marvelous subject collection on Florence with more than 300 works, including Medici family histories, papal bulls, and an illustrated first edition Vasari Lives of the Artists (both collections went to the University of Texas). Of interest for the Alcott material alone, but the light-handed, nontechnical accounts of the uncommon duo's experiences as women antiquarians also make pleasurable reading for anyone immersed in the world of books. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-48514-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1997

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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