An often tart yet affecting music memoir.

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MAN OF CONSTANT SORROW

MY LIFE AND TIMES

A usually taciturn folk icon takes an engaging ramble through his six-decade career.

A founding father of the string-band style most call bluegrass, Stanley—who prefers the terms “old-time mountain music” or “the Stanley Sound” to define his work—has never been fond of talking about himself. So this autobiography, penned with the knowledgeable music journalist Dean, is a delightful, outspoken surprise. The 82-year-old singer and banjo player reflects on his Primitive Baptist upbringing in the mountains of southwestern Virginia, where real life sometimes imitated the Gothic themes of the region’s music—his uncle shot and killed his wife and himself. With older sibling Carter, Stanley founded the Stanley Brothers and the Clinch Mountain Boys, one of the first and greatest bluegrass groups, in 1946. He recounts the development of their “high lonesome” sound, their early rivalry and later friendship with Bill Monroe and their harsh life on the road in the ’50s, when rock ’n’ roll threatened to kill off country music. Following Carter’s alcoholism-related death in 1966, Stanley struck out on his own, and he offers fond recollections of such sidemen as his young protégés Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley and antic fiddler Curly Ray Cline. It wasn’t until his 2002 Grammy triumph on the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou? that Stanley finally transcended his status as a genre hero to attain his rightful place in the American music pantheon. Unashamedly old-fashioned, opinionated and prickly, Stanley sometimes lashes out at rivals like the late John Duffey of Washington’s Seldom Scene. He’s at his best recalling his backwoods upbringing, the vicissitudes of the bluegrass road, the murder of one of his lead singers, regional Democratic politics, the power of gospel music and old-time religion and the fast-vanishing South of his boyhood.

An often tart yet affecting music memoir.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-592-40425-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gotham Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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