An affecting memoir of dysfunction in a fragmented life that gains clarity and grace in its telling.

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Booze, chaos and depression pass from mother to daughter in this searing memoir.

Van Ivan grew up in the 1950s smoldering in a childhood from hell: dragging her inebriated mother home from bars where she’d passed out; weathering a string of unstable stepfathers; getting yanked from home to home and toted along on drunken transcontinental joy rides; being left alone to take care of her younger brothers when their parents disappeared for days on end. There’s squalor aplenty in this saga but also feisty resilience and even lyricism in van Ivan’s unsparing account of her appalling circumstances. The adults in her life—her beautiful, cruel mother, her charming and mostly absent bookie father—loom mythically large in her child’s-eye perspective, which, depending on unpredictable twists of fortune, veers among apprehension, panic, wary relief and rare carefree idylls. The toll all this takes on her becomes gradually apparent as van Ivan makes her way into adulthood determined not to make her mother’s mistakes but apparently fated to do so anyway. Bouncing between New York and Hollywood in pursuit of a marginal show-business career (she sketches vivid portraits of celebrities she encountered, from a dapper Cary Grant to a crazed John Cassavetes), she develops her own unappeasable yen for alcohol and drugs and embarks on a series of rickety marriages and relationships. Her empty, unmoored life becomes a whirl of hangovers, blackouts and compulsive thoughts of suicide. This is dark material, but van Ivan treats it with an exhilarating irony that avoids bathos. She tells her story with novelistic detail and nuance in a raptly observant prose that’s matter-of-fact but infused with mordant wit and occasional flights of hallucinatory fancy. The result is a gripping read that spins painful experiences into deeply satisfying literature.

An affecting memoir of dysfunction in a fragmented life that gains clarity and grace in its telling.

Pub Date: June 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0983349846

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Cygnet Press

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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