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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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