Few of the supporting players come off smelling like roses, but Sullivan’s sensitive portrait of his main subject is a good...

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UNTOUCHABLE

THE STRANGE LIFE AND TRAGIC DEATH OF MICHAEL JACKSON

When former Rolling Stone senior editor Sullivan (The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions, 2004, etc.) was commissioned to write about the circumstances surrounding Michael Jackson’s shocking death in 2009, the author quickly grasped that only a book would do the bizarre story justice.

Rather than write a standard rags-to-riches celebrity bio, which the Jackson family’s humble origins might actually have warranted, Sullivan begins in the months after Jackson’s 2003 trial for sexual abuse of a child. This, it turns out, is as good a starting point as any to look back on Jackson’s “strange life” (as the subtitle puts it), his career, his legal travails, his marriages and fatherhood, and more importantly, his fascinatingly enigmatic character. As he details Jackson’s late-life sojourns with his three children to Dubai, Ireland, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Sullivan also flashes back, in a couple of perfectly paced sections, to the child-molestation allegations in 1993 and 2003. He reveals a man who was not the pedophilic, transgendered, transracial freak the media thought he was, but a highly intelligent and sensitive perfectionist, more self-aware—and ashamed—of his surgically altered looks than the public ever knew. Sullivan’s choices do less justice to Jackson’s rise, his early life, and the development of his musical and dancing genius. While he admirably explicates the criminal case against the doctor who administered the potent pharmaceutical mix that killed Jackson, the author wastes too much time and detail on the soap-operatic legal battles of Jackson’s avaricious survivors and hangers-on.

Few of the supporting players come off smelling like roses, but Sullivan’s sensitive portrait of his main subject is a good start toward explaining and rehabilitating a lonely genius who was poorly understood in his lifetime.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0802119629

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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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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