Life of Charles Olson (1910-70), the ego-driven poet known as Maximum, who fathered ``projective'' verse and became the grand old man of Black Mountain College. Clark improves over his earlier bios (Jack Kerouac, 1984, The World of Damon Runyon), going all out with scholarship and research in this sympathetic retelling of the life of a poet who saw himself as ``metal hot from boiling water.'' A giant at six feet eight or nine inches, Olson was born in Worcester, Mass., and took the fishing village of Gloucester as the landscape for his free-verse epic effort The Maximus Poems. He early battened on Melville scholarship, and in his middle 30s brought out his first book, Call Me Ishmael, a gutsy but unfocused work whose critical failure shattered him and, in a way, helped reroute him toward his true goal as an epic poet. Maximus is the ``I'' or central figure of The Maximus Poems, a primitive force naming things anew in the freshness of the first morning-Olson called himself ``an archaeologist of morning.'' He was also a scholar of ancient civilizations, mainly Hittite and Mayan, and sw these civilizations as still existing in Gloucester and in him, Maximus, who was the totality of his family history, eruptive and overwhelming. As Clark shows, Olson's self-focus dried up his common-law marriages, may or may not have driven his younger second wife to suicide by automobile. While Olson's theories tried to wall him off from ego, and his poetry shows objects as archaic objects without the mediation of the poet's soul, his dependence of amphetamines, alcohol, and pot sent his ego billowing during his last decade and made much of his work diffuse and ragtag. Clark records all, accepts Olson's various self-estimates and solemn need for drugs, never suggests there might have been a better epic had Maximus had a rebirth beyond chemical ego. Told at a steady plod that takes Olson's ideas perhaps more seriously than warranted but that points steadily toward the writer's best work.

Pub Date: April 22, 1991

ISBN: 0-393-02958-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1991

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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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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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