A well-researched biography in which the subject still remains elusive.

READ REVIEW

TORMENT SAINT

THE LIFE OF ELLIOTT SMITH

Heavy psychological examination of the life of melancholic indie-rock troubadour Smith.

Published to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Smith’s tragic suicide, “psychobiographer” Schultz (An Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus, 2011, etc.), known for his analytical acumen in exposing the inner lives of artists like Truman Capote and Diane Arbus, gives the same head-shrinker treatment to the long-lamented singer/songwriter. Smith is probably best known for his melancholic song “Miss Misery,” used in the Academy Award–winning film Good Will Hunting. Yet he was such an introverted, enigmatic figure that even the hundreds of hours of interviews Schultz conducted with friends, loved ones and acquaintances still barely make a dent into what made Smith tick and what made him ultimately take his own life. The author traces Smith’s troubles ostensibly back to childhood and vague hints of emotional abuse at the hands of his stepfather. Schultz skillfully interprets Smith’s laconic quotes and makes broader interpretations of how his thought processes work. The author ably covers Smith’s childhood growing up in Texas and Portland, Ore., through his high school and Hampshire College years, his initial brushes with midlevel fame in Heatmiser and then his bigger success as a solo artist. In the end, however, Smith’s descent into drug addiction and ever-increasing depression doesn’t seem too far removed from the same morbid sensibility and inability to come to terms with fame that drove Kurt Cobain to suicide. Although Smith can certainly be a sympathetic figure, by the final chapter, readers are no closer to Smith psychologically. What we are left with, however, is the unpleasant fact that he willfully dragged his friends and girlfriends through his own empty existential hell, which isn’t exactly a redeeming quality.

A well-researched biography in which the subject still remains elusive.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60819-973-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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
  • 10

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