Without wasting a word, Grimes presents a thoroughly readable view of how stories—and writers, at least of a certain...

READ REVIEW

MENTOR

A MEMOIR

An illuminating account of a writer’s life under the tutelage of another writer.

Today, Frank Conroy (1936–2005) is not read as much as he should be, but his harrowing memoir Stop-Time (1967) was required reading among aspiring writers for decades. Though he didn’t publish much thereafter, Conroy became the head of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop and had trained a generation of teachers, novelists and poets by the time Grimes (Creative Writing/Texas State Univ.; City of God, 1995, etc.) arrived in Iowa City. That arrival seemed unlikely at first. After Conroy snubbed Grimes, then working as a waiter, at a Key West literary gathering, Grimes responded by tearing up a copy of Conroy’s book. Yet Conroy, whose gruffness masked a certain reserve, turned out to be a generous teacher, awarding an already accomplished Grimes a fellowship and a coveted place in seminars—favors fraught with peril in the Hobbesian political world of the university. Some of Grimes’s education took place in smoky bars over many drinks, for “Frank ignored warnings about high cholesterol, got drunk nightly, and couldn’t write without a cigarette.” Yet that education was thorough and grounded, and what Grimes tells of it—lessons that might be condensed into the credo, Pay attention—will be of benefit to any aspiring writer, though no substitute for reading voraciously and writing unforgivingly. Grimes delivers an eloquent portrait of the writer’s life, which is often solitary and difficult—though, despite his own history, not necessarily mired in madness (Prozac helped). The author writes self-effacingly, and sometimes quite humorously, as when he reveals the incestuous logrolling of academic writers—you teach my book, and I’ll blurb yours—and the mechanics of the publishing world (as one insider scolds him, “The next time you get an offer from Farrar, Straus, take it”).

Without wasting a word, Grimes presents a thoroughly readable view of how stories—and writers, at least of a certain kind—are made.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-9825048-8-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more