by Michael Gorra ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 25, 2020
A magisterial, multidisciplinary study of Faulkner that shakes the dust off his canonization.
An exploration of the South’s greatest novelist and his fiction’s complicated relationship to the Civil War.
Though William Faulkner’s legacy is as an author obsessed with the interplay of the South’s shameful past and haunted present, shaped by slavery and the Civil War, he didn’t write much about the war as such. Aside from a handful of scenes that evoked moments like Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, he tended to write about its prehistory and aftereffects. That approach, argues Gorra, a longtime American literature scholar, is a central strength of Faulkner’s fiction. By addressing violence and slavery obliquely, he blurs incidents in ways that allow them to stretch across time. (The “saddest words” of the book's title are “was” and “again," terms that spotlight the inescapability of violence and racism that serve as the war’s grim legacy.) Gorra’s shifts among biography, Civil War history, and literary analysis can make readers feel whipsawed, but they’re always engaging and purposeful. The author takes a close look at the history and literary texts of Faulkner’s time to show how slavery’s role in the war was soft-pedaled, explaining his sometimes embarrassingly racist pronouncements about his native Mississippi. But Faulkner’s literary mind was more open and nuanced. He “couldn’t keep from remembering what other people wanted to forget,” Gorra writes, arguing that signature works like The Sound and The Fury, Light in August, and (especially) Absalom, Absalom! encompass the private fears of white Southerners about mixed-race relationships and Southern honor. Much as Malcolm Cowley’s Portable Faulkner (1946) demystified the complexities of Yoknapatawpha County for Americans still willing to ignore Jim Crow, this book looks at Faulkner in an era in which Confederate statues are at long last getting pulled down. Faulkner had his flaws, Gorra writes, but he “gets the big things right.”A magisterial, multidisciplinary study of Faulkner that shakes the dust off his canonization.
Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: April 19, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020
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by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A former New York City dancer reflects on her zesty heyday in the 1970s.
Discovered on a Manhattan street in 2020 and introduced on Stanton’s Humans of New York Instagram page, Johnson, then 76, shares her dynamic history as a “fiercely independent” Black burlesque dancer who used the stage name Tanqueray and became a celebrated fixture in midtown adult theaters. “I was the only black girl making white girl money,” she boasts, telling a vibrant story about sex and struggle in a bygone era. Frank and unapologetic, Johnson vividly captures aspects of her former life as a stage seductress shimmying to blues tracks during 18-minute sets or sewing lingerie for plus-sized dancers. Though her work was far from the Broadway shows she dreamed about, it eventually became all about the nightly hustle to simply survive. Her anecdotes are humorous, heartfelt, and supremely captivating, recounted with the passion of a true survivor and the acerbic wit of a weathered, street-wise New Yorker. She shares stories of growing up in an abusive household in Albany in the 1940s, a teenage pregnancy, and prison time for robbery as nonchalantly as she recalls selling rhinestone G-strings to prostitutes to make them sparkle in the headlights of passing cars. Complemented by an array of revealing personal photographs, the narrative alternates between heartfelt nostalgia about the seedier side of Manhattan’s go-go scene and funny quips about her unconventional stage performances. Encounters with a variety of hardworking dancers, drag queens, and pimps, plus an account of the complexities of a first love with a drug-addled hustler, fill out the memoir with personality and candor. With a narrative assist from Stanton, the result is a consistently titillating and often moving story of human struggle as well as an insider glimpse into the days when Times Square was considered the Big Apple’s gloriously unpolished underbelly. The book also includes Yee’s lush watercolor illustrations.A blissfully vicarious, heartfelt glimpse into the life of a Manhattan burlesque dancer.
Pub Date: July 12, 2022
Page Count: 192
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022
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