BEN-GURION

A POLITICAL LIFE

The current Israeli president teams with a journalist to survey and celebrate the life of David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973), one of the founders of the State of Israel.

This latest entry in Nextbook’s Jewish Encounters series makes no real pretense of objectivity. As a young man, Peres (The Imaginary Voyage: With Theodor Herzl in Israel, 2000, etc.) worked with Ben-Gurion and idolized him (still does), so the narrative is hardly fair and balanced. There are several issues, however, that divided Peres and co-author and Economist writer Landau (once editor-in-chief of Haaretz), and at those moments the authors step outside the narrative, shifting to a dialogue format to discuss/debate the issues. These include Ben-Gurion’s focus on Zionism at the possible expense of rescuing Holocaust victims, the controversial partition deal he accepted in 1948, the decision to align with the West, his determination not to create a theocracy in Israel and the effectiveness of reprisal raids launched against attacking states and political entities. Because Landau crafted the text from a series of taped interviews with Peres, there is a personal, conversational tone throughout, which brightens and sharpens in the dialogue segments. The authors occasionally step outside politics to provide some conventional information. Their subject was born David Gruen in Poland in 1886; an early love affair went sour before his marriage, during which he had children. But this is principally a story about intractable, internecine politics and a fierce politician whose intelligence, will, biblical convictions and courage were fundamental in the successful creation of Israel. If the authors sometimes soar too high (calling Ben-Gurion a “mythic figure” and a “modern-day prophet”), readers must remember that this is history in the form of gratitude, not a disinterested dissertation.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4282-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

more