A brief but poetic rendering of a fraught and wild pilgrimage.

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OF WALKING IN ICE

MUNICH-PARIS, 23 NOVEMBER–14 DECEMBER 1974

Diary of a passionate quest.

In 1974, when he was 32, acclaimed film director, writer, and producer Herzog (Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo, 2010, etc.) set out on foot from Munich to Paris with the goal of saving a dying friend, the film critic and poet Lotte Eisner. For Herzog, walking was an exercise in magical thinking. “When I’m in Paris she will be alive,” he told himself. “She must not die. Later, perhaps, when we allow it.” At that point in his career, he had completed only one movie, Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). Dozens of works, including Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and Fitzcarraldo (1982), lay in the future. Originally published in 1978, this raw, emotional account of his three-week journey, from late November to December, reveals an astute observer, a painterly writer, and a man desperate to achieve his goal. Like a Romantic hero, Herzog finds that nature echoes his state of mind: “Dusky desolation in the forest solitude, deathly still, only the wind is stirring.” He walked through blizzards and suffered bone-chilling cold, and when he could not find an inn for the night, he buried himself under hay in barns. Sometimes, he broke into vacant homes, taking brief refuge. He sustained himself mostly on milk and tangerines; often, he was parched with thirst. His feet, in new boots, blistered and ached. He endured pain in his knee and an Achilles tendon that swelled to twice its size. He was plagued by horseflies, and his duffel bag rubbed a hole in his sweater. Suffering, though, only spurred him on. Two weeks into the journey, he was overcome by “severe despair. Long dialogues with myself and imaginary persons.” Finally, he arrives at Eisner’s bedside: she was alive, and she lived for nine more years.

A brief but poetic rendering of a fraught and wild pilgrimage.

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8166-9732-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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