Beach reading for those who find Candace Bushnell too literary.

ON MY KNEES

A MEMOIR

Unapologetic Jewish American Princess’ sassy memoir about sex in the city.

Coming on like a potty-mouthed Carrie Bradshaw, Aschenbrand (The Only Bush I Trust Is My Own, 2005) brings all the narcissism, arrogance and elitism to be expected from a proud-to-be-spoiled upper-middle-class woman who would rather live in a rat-infested Chinatown apartment than endure the shame of living anywhere outside of Manhattan. Of course, if it hadn’t been for Tucker Max’s subliterate success with I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2005), one could hardly fathom that high school–quality prose like this (from a noncelebrity author, anyway) could actually be taken seriously from even the most undiscerning of major publishers: Like Max, Aschenbrand’s brand of tell-all true sex confessions isn’t really as sexy as it is childishly bawdy and gross. Rather than actually take the risk of describing in sensual detail her close encounters with hapless male victims, she mostly just makes fun of them or emphasizes a decidedly nonsexy feature of herself, like the long hairs growing out of her ass. She also offers plenty of pedestrian, Dr. Ruth–style wisdom: “[I]f I had learned anything at all, it was that if someone wasn’t sure if they wanted to be with you the worst thing you can do is to try to convince them otherwise.” Aschenbrand also insists that men are intimidated by her, yet somehow, every sentient male with a penis and a discernible pulse, from Manhattan to Tel Aviv, seems comfortable enough with her to end up in her bed (all except author Philip Roth, that is, whom she ate cherries with but sadly didn’t have sex with). Mostly, however, this is just a tossed-off, random survey of her recent hookups and breakups, both in the Big Apple and abroad, with some rich-girl kvetching thrown in for good measure.

Beach reading for those who find Candace Bushnell too literary.

Pub Date: June 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-202689-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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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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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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