Snyder deftly handles the still-thorny questions about national and sexual identity embodied in this single, remarkable life.

THE RED PRINCE

THE SECRET LIVES OF A HABSBURG ARCHDUKE

Sympathetic portrait of cross-dressing archduke Wilhelm von Habsburg (1895–1948).

Wilhelm was “raised to protect and enlarge the family empire in an age of nationalism,” writes Snyder (History/Yale Univ.; Sketches from a Secret War, 2007, etc.), by becoming a Ukrainian prince, “subordinate to the Hapsburg emperor.” The dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I put an end to this notion, but Wilhelm continued to devote himself to the cause of Ukrainian independence. Snyder unravels Wilhelm’s story in a straightforward manner, beginning with key moments in his early life. At age 14, he enrolled in a military school in Moravia that novelist Robert Musil (an alumnus) had described only three years earlier as a hotbed of homoerotic activity. “Homosexuality, royalty, and the military were closely associated” in central Europe, writes Snyder, mentioning several contemporary scandals. During WWI, Wilhelm led Ukrainian troops and hoped for a role in an independent nation, but by 1922 the Ukrainian National Republic had been split between Poland and Russia. He wandered Europe at loose ends and in 1931 arrived in Paris, where he apparently indulged in liaisons with fellow aristocrats, furtive late-night visits to homosexual brothels and cross-dressing. When a female lover embroiled him in a fraud scheme gone wrong, he fled to Austria and briefly became enamored with Adolf Hitler, whom he thought might be favorable to his crusade to bring independence to the Ukraine. By the time World War II began, however, Wilhelm was a firm opponent of the Nazis. He became involved with Ukrainian nationalists again after the war, but the Soviets, intending to absorb all of the Ukraine, arrested Wilhelm in 1947; he died of tuberculosis after a year in captivity. The author tempers this grim personal denouement with a satisfying account of how the Ukraine finally achieved independence years after Wilhelm’s death.

Snyder deftly handles the still-thorny questions about national and sexual identity embodied in this single, remarkable life.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-465-00237-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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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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