Poetic, vivid and stained with tears of regret.

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THICK AS THIEVES

A BROTHER, A SISTER--A TRUE STORY OF TWO TURBULENT LIVES

A junkie hipster’s memoir of his vagabond life doubles as a love letter to his brilliant, troubled older sister.

Literary folk may have recognized Geng only as the drugged, thieving brother of legendary New Yorker humorist Veronica Geng, but on the sketchier side of Manhattan, he was himself a legend, albeit of a very different kind. Record Steve, or just plain “Rec,” could boost whole shelves’ worth of LPs from stores on a daily basis. As related in his sharp, picaresque memoir, he was a long time coming to this notoriety and certainly earned it. Born in 1943, an army brat who spent most of his childhood in Philadelphia, Geng developed a taste for trouble as his bitter, irascible father was reassigned to bases in Germany and France. There, easy access to jazz clubs, Beat literature and drugs helped form the author’s future; his models were “the hipster, the hophead, and the hustler.” Back in the U.S., he fit right into the ’60s Greenwich Village scene, described here with memorable vitality as a trickster world of jazz and scams through which he flitted for several decades in a fun-and-danger-seeking haze. As Geng’s underworld star rose, so did the literary reputation of “Ronnie,” the sister he loved more than anything and hated to disappoint. While Steve ran scams and fenced stolen goods to feed his habit, she wrote humor pieces for the New Yorker, edited Philip Roth and had bad affairs with a number of Manhattan luminaries. (In addition to a sharp wit, the siblings shared strong self-destructive tendencies.) Geng is an astute chronicler of his milieu, sharply evoking everything from Village taverns to the “soulful and lighthearted energy” of black juke joints in the Florida town where he lived for a while with his dying father. He’s also a writer of powerful emotion, exploring the highs and lows of his fraught relationship with the tragically mercurial Ronnie.

Poetic, vivid and stained with tears of regret.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8050-8056-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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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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