WOLF WILLOW

A HISTORY, A STORY, AND A MEMORY OF THE LAST PLAINS FRONTIER (PENGUIN TWENTIETH-CENTURY CLASSICS)

The author of this delightful book, one of America's most distinguished writers, states that it is "A History, a Story, and a Memory of the Last Plains Frontier", and it follows this subtitle exactly. The "History" is that of the country around the Cypress Hills in Saska, the "Story" a fictional tale of cowboys and cattle in the terrible winter of 19067, the "Memory" the author's nostalgic account of his boyhood in the town he names "Whitemud". In 1914 the author's family, following the American dream of a Garden in the West, migrated from town to Whitemud, then barely born, in southern Saskatchewan, and took up a homestead exactly on the Montana-Canadian border, living there and in Whitemud. Five years later, defeated by drought and poverty, they moved on again; years afterward the author returned to find memory in the smell of the Wolf Willow that grew in the Whitemud streams of his boyhood and through it to recapture the past. Life in Whitemud and in the homestead shack was primitive and ugly, but he learned much from it; loneliness and hunger, the joys of treasure-hunting on the town dump, the fact that "anyone, starting from privation, Is spared getting bored". Of Whitemud's history he learned nothing, for although the nearby Cypress Hills had seen every stage of frontier life the town cared nothing for the past, and he knew nothing of fur-traders or Indians seeking sanetuary; he was barely aware of the Mounties, the half-breed metis, the cattle-men ruined in the winter of 1906. This book, one to be read slowly, savored and re-read, will appeal to those with the West in their bones and to searchers for the vanished frontier in its not so-distant reality.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1962

ISBN: 0141185015

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1962

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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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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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