THE JOURNALS OF SPALDING GRAY

The troubled ruminations of the celebrated actor and writer, entries that darken as they approach his death by suicide in 2004.

An undoubtedly talented performer, Gray (Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue, 2005, etc.) comes across as profoundly insecure and self-absorbed in these erratic passages generously annotated by editor Casey (An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family, 2007, etc.)—and Gray’s journals certainly require annotation. He did not write every day; he used abbreviations; he alluded to things that only he and a handful of others could comprehend. Casey divides the text into decades, each of which she introduces with a long summary of Gray’s activities. The entries begin in the 1960s, when Gray (born in 1941) was beginning to launch his career. The suicide of his mother in 1967 darkened the decade—and remained on Gray’s mind the rest of his life. At the time it happened, he wrote “I MUST keep the outside me alive!” Given the tortured testimony in these pages, it’s remarkable that he did so until 2004. His sexuality remained an issue throughout. Although he did not consider himself gay, he did have same-sex experiences, and he wrote often and graphically about sex, recording his myriad betrayals of his partners. According to his journals, when he wasn’t having sex, he was thinking about it, planning it and remembering it. He had alcohol-abuse issues as well, spent years in therapy, underwent electroshock treatments and lived in mental institutions. Yet he somehow found time to write, to perfect his celebrated monologue format and to find men and women—and audiences—who supported him, even during his times of personal implosion. Negative reviews bothered him, and he rarely felt entirely happy about his performances, or about anything else. A journey into a darkness too deep for hope to brighten.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-27345-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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