Serviceable overall, but strong in its demonstration that Rogers was not just a good neighbor and a good friend to children,...

THE GOOD NEIGHBOR

THE LIFE AND WORK OF FRED ROGERS

“The man who conveyed a Zen-like calm on television saw a psychiatrist for decades.” So writes Pittsburgh-based nonprofit CEO King at one of many points in which he emphasizes that the beloved star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a sometimes-contradictory fellow.

Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was no saint, given to occasional outbursts of anger and not above a little deception in order to get out of sticky situations, as when he tried to separate himself from a company he effectively owned during a strike. Raised in the hardscrabble Rust Belt, Rogers escaped, going to work as a floor manager in the early days of TV and making a mark with the 1951 production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, “a high point in NBC’s creative period.” He could have followed a path to an executive role with the network, but he returned to Pittsburgh and pioneered a different kind of TV aimed at children—different because, King writes, it actually respected its audience. Rogers was an emphatic and empathetic Christian who wanted to impart those values to his audience, but by the author’s account, he saw the world—or at least the show he built—with the eyes of a child and insisted that those who worked for him do the same. As a former producer noted, whenever anyone was reading aloud onscreen, the camera showed the words and tracked from left to right to mimic the path of the eyes in reading: “All those little tiny details were really important to Fred.” Though indifferently written and sometimes scattered, King’s book is resolute on the turns Rogers took in order to be sure that his show not be the usual pandering, cereal-selling child’s fare, passing up a fortune in the bargain. A bonus: the author’s revelation of the role Rogers played in getting Monty Python on the air in America.

Serviceable overall, but strong in its demonstration that Rogers was not just a good neighbor and a good friend to children, but also a very good man.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2772-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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