Well-chosen essays on enduring themes.

THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE AMERICAN ESSAY

1945-1970

A celebration of writing on American culture and politics.

Essayist and anthologist Lopate gathers 38 pieces from 1945 to 1970, a period when essay writing flourished and “the figure of the public intellectual, who would be expected to transmit and explain complex ideas, was in ascension.” James Agee, Leslie Fiedler, Irving Howe, Elizabeth Hardwick, Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King Jr., Edward Hoagland, and Flannery O’Connor are among the writers included, with many essays relevant to our own times. For example, in “The Dilemma of Liberal Democracy” (1947), Walter Lippmann reminded readers that George Washington “believed that the people should rule. But he did not believe that because the people ruled, there would be freedom, justice, and good government.” Washington realized “that there was no guarantee that the rule of the people would not in its turn be despotic, arbitrary, corrupt, unjust, and unwise.” In 1964, Richard Hofstadter identified “the paranoid style” of politics, characterized by “heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” and inflamed by mass media: “The villains of the modern right are much more vivid than those of their paranoid predecessors, much better known to the public; the literature of the paranoid style is by the same token richer and more circumstantial in personal description and personal invective.” Lopate notes that in the 1960s, the personal essay began to dominate with writers such as Norman Mailer (reflecting on meeting Jacqueline Kennedy), Susan Sontag (elucidating the concept of “Camp, with “its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration”), and Joan Didion. Lopate has selected both iconic essays (MLK’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail”) and lesser known pieces by famous writers: James Baldwin, for one, on visiting a Swiss village, where none of the 600 residents had ever seen a Black man: “there was yet no suggestion that I was human: I was simply a living wonder.” Other contributors include E.B. White, John Updike, Rachel Carson, and N. Scott Momaday.

Well-chosen essays on enduring themes.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-56733-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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