Essential for Farley and SNL fans, and a sterling example of oral biography—well-structured, consistently engaging and...

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THE CHRIS FARLEY SHOW

A BIOGRAPHY IN THREE ACTS

Family, friends and colleagues remember the late Saturday Night Live star.

When legendary comedy-improv writer and instructor Del Close first saw Chris Farley perform, he commented, “Oh, that’s the next John Belushi.” That praise would prove prophetic in both a positive and a negative way: Like Belushi, Farley’s rapid rise to fame was attended by a lifelong battle with weight problems and substance abuse. In this moving oral biography, older brother Tom Jr. and former National Lampoon Radio Hour head writer Colby (co-author: Belushi, 2005) assemble a layered, in-depth portrait of both Farley’s professional and personal lives, culled from more than 130 interviews with dozens of his closest friends and confidantes. After quickly ascending through the ranks of ImprovOlympic and Second City in Chicago, Farley landed his dream job at SNL—and later, starring roles in Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, among others. (Farley was also the original choice for the voice of Shrek, but his death led to the hiring of Mike Myers.) His colleagues universally recognized his talent, boundless energy and lust for life, but it quickly became clear that he was also battling demons that had been lingering since adolescence: Irish-Catholic guilt; addictive personality; the self-imposed pressure to please everyone around him, especially his father, who was extremely loving but also an obese alcoholic, enabling his son’s issues with alcohol. During the course of the ten years leading up to his death, Farley was in and out of various rehabilitation centers, at one point staying clean for three years. But he was unable to overcome his problems and died of an overdose in December 1997. The editors deserve credit for eliciting such heartfelt remembrances (not all of it positive) from an impressive list of celebrities—Alec Baldwin, John Goodman, Lorne Michaels, Conan O’Brien, Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin Nealon, Rob Lowe, Al Franken, Penelope Spheeris and many more—but readers should also pay close attention to Farley’s family and friends, who get right to the heart of this flawed but humble, remarkably compassionate and enormously talented performer.

Essential for Farley and SNL fans, and a sterling example of oral biography—well-structured, consistently engaging and simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-670-01923-6

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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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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