Light fare as cultural histories go, but a pleasant stroll through the Romantic imagination.

THE LADY AND HER MONSTERS

A TALE OF DISSECTIONS, REAL-LIFE DR. FRANKENSTEINS, AND THE CREATION OF MARY SHELLEY'S MASTERPIECE

A cultural biography that explores how Mary Shelley came to write her gothic classic.

Montillo (Literature/Emerson Coll.; Halloween and Commemorations of the Dead, 2009) discusses how Shelley’s world, as well as her life, informed the creation of Frankenstein. The basic story of how the novel came to be written—during an informal ghost-story competition among Mary, husband Percy, Lord Byron and assorted friends—is the stuff of legend. Perhaps less known is how the idea of bringing the dead back to life was already common currency. Well before Shelley’s birth, Italian scientist Luigi Galvani (source of the word galvanized) was hooking up electrical charges to dead frogs. His nephew, Giovanni Aldini, took matters further by conducting experiments on a dead felon. Percy Shelley, whose poetry had long been absorbed with immortality, was fascinated by this trend in science, which he would pass on to Mary. Entwined with the history of the idea is the history of the couple, which was tumultuous from the day married Percy met William Godwin’s brilliant young daughter; their lives would be rocked by infidelities, jealousies and the early death of a child. “Dream[t] that my little baby came to life again,” Mary wrote in a journal, an idea that may have helped inspire her future novel. Resurrection was in the air, both among doctors and artists. Montillo occasionally loses focus, getting a little overly involved in peripheral scandals and sensational tales, but the book is never dull. Mary Shelley lived in dramatic times, when life was too short to be boring.

Light fare as cultural histories go, but a pleasant stroll through the Romantic imagination.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-202581-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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