An informative but surprisingly sedate tour of haunting’s storied past.

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GHOSTS

A NATURAL HISTORY: 500 YEARS OF SEARCHING FOR PROOF

Ghost-hunting gets a gentlemanly makeover in this meticulous history of hauntings.

Clarke indulges his lifelong interest in the paranormal in this well-documented look at ghost stories and the people who have told them throughout history. As the youngest person ever to become a member of the Society for Psychical Research, the author has pursued his passion since childhood—and it shows. He covers everything in loving detail, from Victorian mobs congregating at haunted houses to Harry Price’s 1920s radio show, which helped launch modern ghost-hunting. Excerpts from letters, illustrations of experiments and many complex family trees ground in reality what could be dismissed as fantasy. Clarke’s discussions of geography also lend realism. England is the focus throughout: The English countryside, class distinctions and small-town gossip feature nearly as prominently as the ghost stories themselves. The author relates all of this information in the same smooth, careful style, presenting them truly as natural history and not necessarily as spine-tingling stories, although some are spooky enough even when viewed through Clarke’s objective lens. This objectivity cuts two ways in the narrative: The author’s open-mindedness is admirable and suitable to a work billed as a “social history,” but the attendant ambiguity saps the sense of direction sorely needed in such a detailed book. When Clarke touches on the cultural history of ghost stories—how their social classes, gender and even fashions have changed with the times—he begins to invite readers to consider the reasons behind these oft-told tales, but then he quickly changes direction. The book will be more useful as a reference than an afternoon’s entertainment, and Clarke also provides a useful index, a chronology and a reference list that will serve other paranormal researchers well.

An informative but surprisingly sedate tour of haunting’s storied past.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250053572

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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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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