perfect delivery.




Broadcaster and columnist Vowell (Radio On: A Listener's Diary, 1998) presents a wonderfully eclectic mix of smart-witted,

often hilarious personal essays. For every reference Vowell makes to The Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, or the Book of Revelations (three of her favorites), she quotes a combination of Sinatra, Elvis, Springsteen, and Johnny Cash a dozen times, resulting in refreshing writing with attitude. Throughout, Vowell's passion for music, sound, and rhythm are manifested in her words and her topics, whether firing a cannon with dad or making a mix tape for a friend's girlfriend. Many of the stylish essays are "on assignment" accounts, in which Vowell allows herself to be dressed up for a night of goth clubbing, attends Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy Camp, checks into the grimy and ghostly Chelsea Hotel, and tries to learn to drive at 28. Her title track, "Take the Cannoli," is not about music, but takes its namesake from a sound byte in The Godfather—a film Vowell obsessed over when in college. The film's "made-up, sexist East Coast thugs" taught Vowell a valuable lesson about family, guns, and dessert. But not everything is sugar-coated in Vowell's world: she claims that "even as a six-year-old I knew I'd never be good enough to get into heaven," and she recounts whining her way through Disney World in "Species-on-Species Abuse." She gets cranky and sardonic, but at these moments her talent may shine brightest. In "Dark Circles," Vowell, coffee in hand, comes to grips with her insomnia: lying awake in bed, she recalls her day, arriving at the less-than-soporific conclusion that "everyday, no matter how cheerful, how innocuous, always contains within it some little speed bump of anger or hate, some wrong place, wrong time, hell-is-other-people moment of despair. Nighty night." Vowell's crafty writing, often free-spirited and sometimes neurotic, is like literary stand-up comedy with a lot of heart and

perfect delivery.

Pub Date: April 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86797-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2000

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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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