MILTON S. EISENHOWER, EDUCATIONAL STATESMAN

A showcase, in effect, for the attractive personality and deep-held convictions of octogenarian Milton Eisenhower—with little of the zest, acumen, or substantive interest of his memoir The President Is Calling. On the basis that Eisenhower dealt there with his public life, Ambrose and Immerman concentrate on his career in higher education—as president of Kansas State, Penn State, and Johns Hopkins—an area in which they're admittedly not expert. (Immerman also collaborated with Ambrose on Ike's Spies.) Exuding fondness for their subject, they adhere closely to the homespun Eisenhower family image in which he believes (more so, indeed, than Ambrose's latest biography of Dwight Eisenhower, above); yet they term some of his ideas "simplistic"—and two pages later, quote from a thoughtful, Étude-by-Étude Eisenhower appreciation of Chopin. His individuality, in short, eludes them. And even in this truncated account, the early years—Kansas newspapering, meteoric rise in the Agriculture Dept., FDR confidant and aide—most repay the reading: at least things happen. Ambrose and Immerman do try, reiteratively, to develop some themes: Eisenhower's preference for "an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach"; his reliance on subordinates; his bent toward "conciliation" (and distaste for confrontation); his warmth, hospitality, outreach (toward students especially)—and his "extreme sensitivity to criticism" (the reason, plausibly, he stayed out of politics). Treating of Eisenhower the higher-educator, they produce only a patchwork of achievements (artificially balanced with the criticisms of detractors). Eisenhower, we're told, liberalized the curriculum and internationalized the student body at "cow college" Kansas State; rid Penn State of its inferiority complex and turned it into a real university; twice put Johns Hopkins on its financial feet—while preserving its small/elite tradition. Everywhere he excelled at legislative lobbying and general fund-raising, and instituted citizenship programs; usually he was admired, and got his way. (In a loyalty-oath crisis at Penn State, however, he looks less than a shining light.) The concluding chapters expand on his current distress with the US (he's fervently for gun control) and his active, good-humored aging. Some future biographer will be grateful for the authors' interview-materials—for present readers, they've been used too earnestly and unimaginatively.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0801892678

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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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

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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

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