Perhaps not the last word on Stone but essential for students and fans of the writer’s works.

CHILD OF LIGHT

A BIOGRAPHY OF ROBERT STONE

Comprehensive life of the late novelist Robert Stone (1937-2015), victim and chronicler of an excessive era.

“Nothing is free.” So, writes novelist Bell (Behind the Moon, 2017, etc.), ran a mantra of Stone’s. It’s fitting. Stone grew up fatherless, with a mother who may have been schizophrenic, in and out of orphanages and shelters, and he responded with a need to fight for every achievement. So he did, joining a gang, showing up drunk to high school—and somehow arriving in Wallace Stegner’s famed writing workshop at Stanford. There, Stone fell in with the likes of Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady and spent much of the 1960s zonked out, lending irony to the subtitle of his memoir Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties. But as Bell clearly shows, Stone was still capable of marvels: His Vietnam War novel Dog Soldiers, published in 1974, was “regarded as the definitive work of fiction on the war by readers who found it both curious and curiously appropriate that only a small percentage of its action took place in Vietnam, and practically none of it in combat.” Other hallmark novels were Children of Light and A Flag for Sunrise, a Pulitzer finalist. Stone arrived at a state of solvency and relative fame in midcareer, hampered only by his prodigious appetites: The end of the 1990s found him suffering from many illnesses, some self-wrought, as his “drug and alcohol problems were still hovering at crisis level.” Bell’s approach seems formulaic after a time: He writes of a period of time, offers a sometimes-too-detailed summary of the plot of a given book or story, surveys the criticism (Michiko Kakutani being a special bête noire), and finally looks at the till. It’s a lot of inside baseball. Though perhaps too much for civilian readers, the business end in particular will fascinate working writers. For all Stone’s flaws, Bell makes a solid case for the importance of his work.

Perhaps not the last word on Stone but essential for students and fans of the writer’s works.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54160-2

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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