Stylistically simple yet structurally complex, Salisbury’s latest installment reads as a final chapter to a long, lauded...

SO FAR, SO GOOD

In the autumn of his life, a writer reflects on the poignancy and power of minor moments in a changing world.

Salisbury’s (English Emeritus/Univ. of Oregon; The Indian Who Bombed Berlin, 2009, etc.) memoir, which won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, defies easy classification. Inspired by his daughter’s request to “put some of our family's realities down, with no fictionalizing and no poeticizing, just things as they were,” Salisbury strives to live up to the challenge. But it proves challenging, indeed, particularly for a writer with roots in poetry and influenced by the oral tradition. Salisbury’s unconventional stream-of-consciousness style shatters any semblance of a tightly wound narrative. Instead, his unapologetically indulgent work is populated by remembrances of a bygone era, depicting a version of rural America long lost. Yet readers will forgive Salisbury his trespass and embrace his work for its humanity. The author’s America reveals a landscape overflowing with hogs, cow pies and corn silks, novelties for the 21st-century urbanite. From birth to adolescence to war and back again, Salisbury hones in on the quieter moments of life. Steering clear of melodrama, he depicts a world captured in sepia tones, in which understated prose and humble observations best reflect the world that passed him by. “Whatever is here I offer to the world,” he writes, “knowing that my life is but one of a multitude of lives, all doomed to undergo change and, I believe, to go on and on, in the Great Plan, which, perhaps, we humans can, in our best moments, somewhat sense.”

Stylistically simple yet structurally complex, Salisbury’s latest installment reads as a final chapter to a long, lauded literary life.

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8032-4592-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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