A brief, madcap moment in literary chronicles: the house was torn down for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in 1945.

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FEBRUARY HOUSE

Long-time Brooklyn resident Tippins (coauthor, The Irreverent Guide to New York) shapes a lively literary history with some surprising depth around the bawdy house of writers at 7 Middagh Avenue in Brooklyn Heights at the outbreak of WWII.

In October 1940, George Davis, newly fired fiction editor of Harper’s Bazaar, was the impresario behind the renting of the ramshackle house close to the waterfront, where he dreamed of luring the literary lights of the day. Captivating storyteller Davis, having gleaned his literary education in Paris, strong-armed some of the most interesting writers of the time into his orbit, among them W.H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood and the very young southern novelist Carson McCullers, all of whose work he helped publish. On evidence of a dream he had, he convinced McCullers to co-rent the house on Middagh Street, overlooking the Fulton Ferry, and bring in other new friends as tenants, such as the British composer Benjamin Britten; the various politically active children of German novelist Thomas Mann (Klaus, Erika, Golo); and Paul and Jane Bowles, who were allowed to stay only briefly before their Francophilia irritated the Brits. Ailing alcoholic McCullers would shape her extraordinary Ballad of the Sad Café in this house; Auden would meet here his long-time lover of grief, Chester Kallman, and wrestle with important questions concerning the function of the writer during political crisis; and Britten would move from the sophomoric Paul Bunyan to the momentous Peter Grimes. The strangest and most interesting tenant of all was surely stripper-cum-writer Gypsy Rose Lee, whom Davis had known back in his Detroit hometown and whose first successful literary enterprise, The G-String Murders, he helped midwife. Tippins demonstrates some fine research on Auden’s life—and on the first tremulous days of fear and dread as America faced another European war.

A brief, madcap moment in literary chronicles: the house was torn down for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway in 1945.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-41911-X

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2004

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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