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BORDERLINE CITIZEN

DISPATCHES FROM THE OUTSKIRTS OF NATIONHOOD

Engaging bits about intriguing lands, all in service of trying to “understand the complexities of the world.”

An American expatriate now living in Singapore explores the world between and beyond borders, where the notion of nationalism becomes complicated.

As the author of a dozen or so books and an academic within a number of writing programs, Hemley (A Field Guide for Immersion Writing, 2012, etc.) has crossed the borders between fiction and nonfiction and established himself as an internationalist. His latest is a travel book of sorts but not one aimed at tourists. In “Mr. Chen’s Mountain,” the author invokes an old saying: “If you spend a day in China you can write a book; if you spend a month, you can write an article; if you spend a year, you can’t write anything.” This chapter, one of the book’s most provocative and engaging, chronicles the story of a megawealthy man whose character and wealth resist easy understanding or categorization. The author compares his subject to both Citizen Kane and Jed Clampett, but with a twist on the latter. “What makes him remarkable is that he’s not the Jed Clampett who moved to Beverly Hills but the [one] who returned home,” where his wealth towers in stark contrast to the poverty he left behind. Because many of the chapters were previously published—in the New York Observer, the Iowa Review, and elsewhere—the narrative doesn’t always cohere, and some of the complexities of border rivalries and histories can be difficult to apprehend quickly. However, this may be an element of Hemley’s overall theme about how lands can change allegiances and alliances many times without the natives themselves changing. “Governments are necessary, and it’s natural to want to consider oneself part of something larger,” he writes. “But I’ve never been fully convinced that nations as such make sense.” Among other topics, the author explores the Falkland Islands, Hong Kong, and the fraught border between India and Bangladesh.

Engaging bits about intriguing lands, all in service of trying to “understand the complexities of the world.”

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4962-2041-7

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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INTO THE WILD

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

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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