A thorough, but familiar, portrait of a tormented artist.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY

A BIOGRAPHY

The rise and fall of the Nobel Prize–winning writer.

Dearborn (Mistress of Modernism: The Life of Peggy Guggenheim, 2004, etc.), whose previous biographical subjects include Norman Mailer and Henry Miller, writers noted for their boastful machismo, distills a wealth of material for a richly detailed investigation of another writer intent on proving his vigor and manliness, on the page and off. The author writes that she has “no investment” in promoting the Hemingway legend but rather seeks to examine “what formed this remarkably complex man and brilliant writer” by tracing his career as it unfolded. That aim results in a scrupulous chronology, from which the usual suspects emerge: Hemingway’s wives; famous friends F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, Robert McAlmon, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound; an ambitious mother, depressed father, and Hemingway’s sons. Even without attempting to burnish the Hemingway legend, Dearborn underscores the charisma of the handsome, athletic man who, critic Edmund Wilson remarked, had an “ominous resemblance to Clark Gable.” Nevertheless, she is clear about his shortcomings, especially his neediness and violent temper. “As long as people around him were worshipful and adoring,” one friend noted, “why then they were great.” If the adoration stopped, they were viciously cut off. This truculence began in childhood and intensified into paranoia as he aged. Also intensifying were Hemingway’s manic episodes, followed by black depressions. Dearborn asserts that this syndrome worsened after a series of traumatic brain injuries and was exacerbated by excessive consumption of alcohol. Not surprisingly, he ended up with liver disease, and although his physicians insisted he give up drinking, he never did. Taking on the question of Hemingway’s sexuality, Dearborn believes that his mother’s practice of styling him and his sister as twins until her son was 6 had lifelong repercussions, including his erotic obsessions with haircuts and color on which Dearborn focuses repeatedly.

A thorough, but familiar, portrait of a tormented artist.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-307-59467-9

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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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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