LEADERS

            Recollections of Churchill, de Gaulle, Khrushchev, et al. recycled from RN – plus biographical material from the public domain and a few thoughts on leadership by which Nixon identifies himself with his subjects.  The great political leader must be willing “to risk all to gain all”; to endure opprobrium; to spend years “in the wilderness.”  (In all these respects, see also Adenauer.)  Two of the lesser lights in Nixon’s pantheon – Japan’s Yoshida, Italy’s de Gasperi – resisted radicalism; two – Australia’s Menzies, Singapore’s Lee – were champions of free enterprise who made their countries rich.  (“The pursuit of affluence is much ridiculed by those who have never known the absence of it.”)  Other cross-comparisons, endemic throughout, are simply extensions of Nixon’s hackneyed characterizations or his connect-the-dot grasp of history:  “If David Ben-Gurion was an elemental force of history, Golda Meir was an elemental force of nature.”  “Like Ghana’s Nkrumah, Indonesia’s Sukarno proved a disaster once independence was secured.  Both could destroy; neither could build.”  Furthermore:  Chou was charming, Mao earthy; Chiang orderly, Mao slovenly.  And Mao, “like most revolutionary leaders, could destroy but could not build.”  Much of the book, however, consists of stock biographical data, stock anecdotes, or stock quotes.  Even Nixon’s ostentatious dissents from the common view are pat:  de Gaulle’s reputed arrogance notwithstanding, “I found him to be a very kind man…I would say he was almost gentle”; “in spite of [Adenauer’s] outward austerity…he was a warm, good-humored, gentle man.”  The close-Nixon-watcher might indeed find his admiration for de Gaulle and Adenauer of some interest.  (Both are lauded as family men; both befriended him when he was out of office.)  But for a self-proclaimed avid reader of history (another attribute of leadership), he is remarkably unaware that others have heard his story of the “kitchen debate” with Khrushchev before, or also know that Churchill and de Gaulle were “voices in the wilderness” in the Thirties.  And it would be beyond his ken that some might not equate his defeat for the California governorship with their warnings against the Nazi rise.  Pretty tiresome, even for the sympathetically-inclined.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 1982

ISBN: 0446512494

Page Count: 424

Publisher: Warner UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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