A spirited, entertaining collection of stories and traditions that bear emulating in other regions of the country.

FOXFIRE STORY

ORAL TRADITION IN SOUTHERN APPALACHIA

A book of Southern folklore and yarn-spinning from the long-running Foxfire franchise.

The Foxfire organization, as executive director and president Smith notes, now dates back more than half a century. It was the brainchild of a teacher who put his English class to work collecting stories from their home in “extreme northeast Georgia,” their mandate being to “talk to people about life and survival in the Southern Appalachian mountains.” The current volume ably extends that tradition, taking readers to the heart of the place while anthologizing pieces that stretch across centuries. The opening tale, for instance, recalls a bank robbery of 1936 in the county seat of Clayton: “Just one man, and he had a gun on her, and when he called for the money she screamed and run out at the back of the bank like a bullet—just went a-flyin’.” It took the sheriff, who tells the tale, a while to bust up the ring, for there was more than one bad guy involved, and he was nice enough not to put the leader, with the resonant name of Zade Sprinkle, in leg irons as he drove him off to jail. Smith serves up yarns aplenty, from tall tales to etiological myths and collections of folk beliefs (“If you drop a dishrag, someone is going to come visit you that is dirtier than you are”). Readers will learn that the local way of saying insomnia is “big eye,” that something “catty-whompus” is lopsided, that working people wear clodhoppers while someone in an office wears a “choke-rag,” or necktie. A special pleasure is a set of ghost stories, for the densely wooded mountains make a fittingly spooky background, and a howling “panther,” or mountain lion, naturally just has to be a shape-shifting woman. “I’ve never seen a big cat back in the mountains,” the storyteller allows, “but one time when I was digging up some Christmas trees…a cat came down and walked around my truck in the snow.”

A spirited, entertaining collection of stories and traditions that bear emulating in other regions of the country.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-43631-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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