Notes on Theodore Dreiser's two-month 192728 tour of the Soviet Union that provided the material for the book Dreiser Looks at Russia (1928). Its title notwithstanding, much of this ``diary'' was penned by American-born Ruth Epperson Kennell, then living in Russia. As Dreiser's secretary (and lover), she kept notes that Dreiser reviewed and annotated at the time, and later edited. Together, they describe visits to places as varied as the Hermitage, the State Circus, the Czar's Village (``the worst palace I have ever seen,'' says Kennell in Dreiser's voice), a candy factory, an ``electro- mechanical'' plant, and a coal mine. In addition to chatting with Communist bureaucrats (questioned with terrier-like tenacity, as he tries to expose failings in the system), Dreiser converses with people ranging from Sergei Eisenstein and Konstantin Stanislavski to a woman who, mistaking the author and his entourage for an inspection commission, complains of dampness in her walls. Although Kennell includes comments to please people at VOKS (the government cultural agency to whom, without telling Dreiser, she supplied a duplicate of most of her portion of the diary), much here will be interesting to scholars—particularly when read in conjunction with Dreiser's 1928 volume and with Kennell's own book on the trip. En route to Russia, Dreiser speculates that after a revolution ``the miraculous will become the real,'' and, indeed, he is determined to see the ``real'' Russia. At times, perhaps, the experiences become a bit too real, as Dreiser grouses about unreliable trains, mediocre food, and seemingly ever-present filth. By the end of the tour he has seen enough reality to say (per Kennell-Dreiser), ``My one desire is to get out of here as quickly as possible and back to America.'' The editors, Riggio (English/Univ. of Connecticut) and West (English/Pennsylvania State Univ.), have prepared a volume that is primarily for those interested in Dreiser or in the USSR of the 1920s.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8122-8091-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. of Pennsylvania

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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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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