A brisk account of a career and a culture that presages much of our current-day obsession with celebrity.

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A SEASON IN THE SUN

THE RISE OF MICKEY MANTLE

Roberts (History/Purdue Univ.) and Smith (American History/Georgia Tech Univ.) follow their previous collaboration (Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, 2016) with a hybrid book about baseball legend Mickey Mantle (1931-1995).

The hybrid consists of a spotty biography of Mantle’s journey from small-town Oklahoma to the New York Yankees, a deep dive into the nature of American-style celebrity, and fascinating cameos by the men and women who influenced the impressionable Mantle as he rose to fame. The authors suggest that the task of upholding Yankee hegemony while being compared to Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio placed unbearable pressures on the 20-something Mantle. Predisposed to late-night partying and excessive alcohol consumption, Mantle often struggled to report to the baseball diamond. The serious physical injuries wracking his seemingly godlike physique also compromised his ability to reach maximum performance on a regular basis. One year in particular, 1956, was his finest, as Mantle led Major League Baseball in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in—the almost never achieved triple crown. Though the authors recount the 1956 season in detail that might bore those uninterested in baseball history, their narrative of off-field controversies should have no trouble holding the interest of all readers. Most sports journalists and other baseball insiders covered up for the naïve Mantle, feeling that dishonesty by omission served their audiences’ desire for hero worship. After 1956, as Mantle’s stardom peaked and then declined, revelations about his less-than-sterling behaviors seeped out. The publication of Ball Four (1970), the classic memoir by pitcher Jim Bouton, ended any remaining illusion of Mantle as a golden boy. When Mantle died relatively young in 1995, few who knew the real Mantle expressed shock.

A brisk account of a career and a culture that presages much of our current-day obsession with celebrity.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09442-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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