Karlin works on a small scale, bringing all the senses into play as he describes acts both of turpitude and decency in this...

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WAR MOVIES

JOURNEYS TO VIETNAM: SCENES AND OUT-TAKES

Personal encounters with Vietnam, past and present, in a web of prickly memory.

When editor and novelist Karlin (The Wished for Country, 2002, etc.) is hired to work on the film Song of the Stork, his 1966–67 tour in Vietnam begins to unreel again in his mind, like a movie: “It had been like that even then, even as it was happening, and those stories seeped back in again.” The writing here is trancelike, still and thoughtful, groping toward memory and meaning. The time span goes from 1966 to 2004, from Karlin’s gunner’s position on a helicopter to his later role as a screenwriter aware of the moral complexities of his current work and of that of the soldiers, Vietnamese and American, back then. The writer is edgy, but he has returned to Vietnam many times before and is mindful that he must be patient if he wants to hear the stories of the Vietnamese he’s working with on the film, a number of whom were on the receiving end of his fire, as he was of theirs. Questions of conduct loom large, both for the truthfulness of the movie and for Karlin’s own curiosity about how college-age students today, like those working on Song, would have behaved under the circumstances then. He remembers the effort it took to “move at all in the eardrum-cracking din of a fire fight, as projectiles he has seen split and mutilate the flesh of his companions scribble the air around him,” or the courage that was needed to resist the horror of My Lai, as one helicopter crew did, to its peril. The disorientation of those times is still there as Karlin brings us back to 2004. The disgust and heartsickness, the lies, unworthiness, frustration, and rage of a war—these are things he’ll never shake.

Karlin works on a small scale, bringing all the senses into play as he describes acts both of turpitude and decency in this memoir of a country’s consciousness.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-931896-16-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Curbstone Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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