A funny, insightful homage to movie love and an honest account of growing up, personally and professionally.

SILVER SCREEN FIEND

LEARNING ABOUT LIFE FROM AN ADDICTION TO FILM

A comedian’s lively memoir about his movie addiction.

“All this filming isn’t healthy.” That's the advice given to the title character in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom (1960), and comedian and actor Oswalt (Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, 2011) would no doubt say the same goes for viewing. In this lively memoir, the author focuses on his early 1990s career, when time was divided between hustling the Los Angeles stand-up circuit and filling his head with every available movie. As he devoured film after film, he told himself that he was getting an education: “As I filled in each hole in my movie buff’s incomplete knowledge, perhaps I was unlocking some secret level of skill I had as a comedian.” Oswalt was also thinking of the Woody Allen career arc: Germinate in the hothouses of comedy clubs and movie houses and blossom as a brilliant auteur. Instead, watching movies took over, alienating him from life and people: “Don’t they want to talk about the movies of the newly rediscovered French crime master Jean-Pierre Melville, or the Dogme 95 movement, or the dozen or so hidden references in the latest Tarantino film? Why are people so boring?” Oswalt tells a variety of interesting stories—of half-assing his way through his days as a MADtv sketch writer, pissing off Jerry Lewis, obsessing over his first tiny film role, hearing an aging actor bellow drunken commentary during a screening of Citizen Kane—but he doesn’t go out of his way to score punch lines. Actually, he’s on to something more serious, which is how movies can simultaneously inspire and stunt ambition. After all, who has time to write a screenplay when a remastered version of Dr. Strangelove starts in a few hours?

A funny, insightful homage to movie love and an honest account of growing up, personally and professionally.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1451673210

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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