The personal and the political recollected with honesty and passion. (b&w photos throughout)

SLEEPING WITH CATS

A MEMOIR

From poet and novelist Piercy (Three Women, 1999, etc.), a beguilingly frank account of a fully engaged life, shared with cats.

Detailing the changes that have roiled society since the Depression, as well as her relationships with family, friends, and lovers, Piercy provides a vivid, if unanalyzed, historical and personal record of the late-20th century. Paralleling her own story are those of the cats she has known through her life: sweet-natured Fluffy, vindictively poisoned in her adolescence; difficult but beautiful Jim Beam; and her four current cats, two Korats and two tabbies. Like all cat lovers, Piercy celebrates the animals’ intelligence, loyalty, and sensitivity as she interweaves their destinies with hers. She begins with her early years in a tough Detroit neighborhood. Only child Piercy was alienated from both her Jewish mother and her gentile father while growing up, though she later became closer to her elderly mother. Young Marge belonged to a gang, carried a knife, and had numerous sexual relationships. Her parents didn’t want her to go to college, but with scholarships and money she earned working, she went off in the late 1950s to the University of Michigan. There, she won writing prizes and met her first husband, but was soon divorced. She subsequently lived in San Francisco, Boston, and New York, acquired a second husband, and, as the Vietnam War heated up, threw herself into antiwar protests. She was a prominent member of the SDS, injuring her back in encounters with the police, but after becoming increasingly soured by the New Left’s attitude toward women, she joined the burgeoning feminist movement and lived in an open marriage. Times changed: finding politics too demanding, Piercy moved to Cape Cod, where she still lives with her third husband—and the cats. Recognizing writing as “the real core” of her life, she now puts it first.

The personal and the political recollected with honesty and passion. (b&w photos throughout)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-621115-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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

TOMBSTONE

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

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. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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