The definitive biography of a uniquely American cultural figure. In 1869, when 40-year-old composer and piano virtuoso Louis Moreau Gottschalk died in Rio de Janeiro, South America and much of Europe went into mourning. In his native United States, newspaper retrospectives portrayed his career as a descent from genius into triviality and scandal. With this contrast, Oberlin College president Starr (Red and Hot: Jazz in the Soviet Union, 1983) begins his exhaustively researched, solidly written study of a musical artist whose short but eventful life encapsulates the history of concert music in the New World during the first half of the 19th century. Born in New Orleans to a Creole mother of ``aristocratic'' origins and an English Jewish father who had a second family living three blocks away from his ``legal'' one, Gottschalk was indelibly formed by parental duplicities and childhood insecurities (his father eventually went bankrupt). As an adult, he inhabited the same world as piano virtuoso Franz Liszt and had the same cataclysmic effect on audiences: Men wept, women swooned. But Gottschalk did not understand that American public opinion would not take kindly to even a few notorious affairs, though Liszt got away with dozens of liaisons in Europe. Despite being hailed as ``the first and greatest composer of the age'' as late as 1864, Gottschalk was ultimately forced to decamp for South America, where he garnered artistic triumphs but no lasting financial success. Though he persuasively argues that Gottschalk's work had greater artistic merit than his received reputation as a composer of salon music and party pieces with a Latin American flavor, the author does not purport to offer a detailed musical exegesis of the compositions. Everything else is here, however, including the famous ``six piano'' marathon concerts and an astute appraisal of Gottschalk's reputation in the 125 years since his death. Starr's scholarly passion provides key insights into an emerging national culture. (40 halftone illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-507237-5

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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