An extraordinary memoir suffused with generosity, consistent insight, and striking artwork.

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GOLEM GIRL

A MEMOIR

An artist born with spina bifida shares her story and her paintings with grace and humor.

“What’s wrong with her?” As a child, writes Lehrer, when a stranger would callously ask that question, “to my dismay, Mom would provide all they’d need to win the vacation package and the new Cadillac. She laid out the details of spina bifida, its causes and effects, as if deputizing a city-wide cadre in case I had to be rushed to an emergency room. For me, this kind of visibility was like being scraped along the sidewalk.” Lehrer, whose paintings of what she calls “socially challenged bod[ies]” hang in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian and many other museums, narrates her difficult childhood with an eloquence and freedom from self-pity that are every bit as powerful as those of Lucy Grealy in her Autobiography of a Face (1994). Remarkably, Lehrer, now 62, found a way to survive endless surgeries (many of them completely bungled) and irremediable pain to create a successful life—one that readers will relish learning about. Her evolving self-awareness as an artist, a disabled person, and a woman with a complicated sexuality are well-explored, and her prose ranges from light and entertaining to intellectually and emotionally serious—and always memorable. In explaining a period when she took up painting beds, she writes, “Beds are crossroads, where impairment and sexuality intersect, the mattress a palimpsest of ecstasy and hurt.” The memoir is illustrated with photographs of family and friends and color images of Lehrer’s paintings. In an appendix—a bonus book within the book—she goes back to each of the portraits and shares anecdotes about her process and her interaction with the subject, often including that person’s own account. In one of her series, The Risk Pictures, Lehrer leaves the subject alone with the canvas for an hour and instructs them to alter it however they want.

An extraordinary memoir suffused with generosity, consistent insight, and striking artwork.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 448

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

RAGE

That thing in the air that is deadlier than even your “strenuous flus”? Trump knew—and did nothing about it.

The big news from veteran reporter Woodward’s follow-up to Fear has been widely reported: Trump was fully aware at the beginning of 2020 that a pandemic loomed and chose to downplay it, causing an untold number of deaths and crippling the economy. His excuse that he didn’t want to cause a panic doesn’t fly given that he trades in fear and division. The underlying news, however, is that Trump participated in this book, unlike in the first, convinced by Lindsey Graham that Woodward would give him a fair shake. Seventeen interviews with the sitting president inform this book, as well as extensive digging that yields not so much news as confirmation: Trump has survived his ineptitude because the majority of Congressional Republicans go along with the madness because they “had made a political survival decision” to do so—and surrendered their party to him. The narrative often requires reading between the lines. Graham, though a byword for toadyism, often reins Trump in; Jared Kushner emerges as the real power in the West Wing, “highly competent but often shockingly misguided in his assessments”; Trump admires tyrants, longs for their unbridled power, resents the law and those who enforce it, and is quick to betray even his closest advisers; and, of course, Trump is beholden to Putin. Trump occasionally emerges as modestly self-aware, but throughout the narrative, he is in a rage. Though he participated, he said that he suspected this to be “a lousy book.” It’s not—though readers may wish Woodward had aired some of this information earlier, when more could have been done to stem the pandemic. When promoting Fear, the author was asked for his assessment of Trump. His reply: “Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” Multiple crises later, Woodward concludes, as many observers have, “Trump is the wrong man for the job.”

An essential account of a chaotic administration that, Woodward makes painfully clear, is incapable of governing.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982131-73-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

IS THIS ANYTHING?

“All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” So writes Seinfeld in this pleasing collection of sketches from across his four-decade career.

Known for his wry, observational humor, Seinfeld has largely avoided profanity and dirty jokes and has kept politics out of the equation. Like other schooled jokesters, perhaps most famously Bob Hope, he keeps a huge library of gags stockpiled, ever fearful of that day when the jokes will run out or the emcee will call you back for another set. “For the most part, it was the people who killed themselves to keep coming up with great new material who were able to keep rising through the many levels,” he recounts of his initiation into the New York stand-up scene. Not all his early material played well. The first piece in this collection, laid out sentence by sentence as if for a teleprompter, is a bit about being left-handed, which comes with negative baggage: “Two left feet. / Left-handed compliment. / Bad ideas are always ‘out of left field.’ / What are we having for dinner? / Leftovers.” He gets better, and quickly, as when he muses on the tininess of airplane bathrooms: “And a little slot for used razor blades. Who is shaving on the plane? And shaving so much, they’re using up razor blades. Is the Wolfman flying in there?” For the most part, the author’s style is built on absurdities: “Why does water ruin leather? / Aren’t cows outside a lot of the time?” It’s also affable, with rare exceptions, as when, taking on a mob boss persona, he threatens a child with breaking the youngster’s Play-Doh creations: “Nothing wrong with sending your child a little Sicilian message once in a while.” One wishes there were more craft notes among the gags, but the ones that are there are both inspiring and gnomic: “Stand-up is about a brief, fleeting moment of human connection.”

Fans of Seinfeld will eat this up, and aspiring comics will want to study how he shapes his seemingly effortless humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982112-69-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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