There were plenty of hand-scrawled signs in public places saying, "Kilroy was here." He probably was, and he certainly made...

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HOBO

A DEPRESSION ODYSSEY

Reminiscing about a teenage hobo adventure, former newsman O'Malley describes what happens when a young man from Montana rides the rails and looks for work during the Great Depression.

The narrative is modeled on the old Saturday Evening Post, loaded with action-packed dramatic scenes and propulsive energy. After the violent opening—in which our hero, Richard Maloney (called "Slim") is beaten up by a railroad "yard bull" in charge of keeping freeloaders off the trains, and subsequently finds company and consolation by the fireside of friendly hobos—O'Malley embarks full-steam-ahead on a narrative journey that makes real the plight of thousands of unemployed and desperate people. Not all those whom Slim meets are saints—some beat him up and rob him blind; others, such as an out-of-work railroad porter, urge him to commit crime. He resists, finding instead backbreaking work digging potatoes (25 cents a day, plus all the potatoes he can eat, plus shelter in a barn). Trips to Los Angeles, the Mojave desert and beyond begin to blur in the reader's mind as he describes a closely focused life in strict survival mode. He thinks only about where he can get another meal, whether the railroad "bull" will catch him, or whether the next guy will be a crazed murderer (he meets several while riding the rails). O'Malley packs the story with lively anecdotes, such as playing the only piano tune he knows for poor moonshine-makers desperate for dance, or working as a fake "townie" who dares to challenge the carnival champ—a brain-damaged fellow known as "Battler"—for $2 a fight. After landing unjustly in jail for vagrancy, he witnesses a suicide and an execution during his 90 days behind bars. He also begins to recognize his own imperfections—though he hadn't realized it before, he was "white proud and that was no damn good." After a year and a half on the road he returns home a somewhat broken—but much wiser—man, and still only 19 years old. The voice drifting from the '30s is authentic, but lacking in a suspenseful dramatic thread to keep the pages turning. Nonetheless, he illuminates those trying times with heartfelt emotion and genuine humanity.

There were plenty of hand-scrawled signs in public places saying, "Kilroy was here." He probably was, and he certainly made his mark.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-4033-5448-0

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 19, 2011

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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