THE OAK AND THE CALF

SKETCHES OF LITERARY LIFE IN THE SOVIET UNION: A MEMOIR

Written in installments respectively dated 1967, 1971, 1973, and 1974, these memoirs begin with the critical and official "acceptance" of One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich and end with Solzheintsyn on a plane headed for West Germany, expelled. All of it is set "an octave high," to the key of never-believe-them-for-even-a-minute; and it is absolutely abrim with specifics: dates, circumstances, documents, and dialogue—qualities not surprising in an ex-zek (campprisoner) whose earliest works had to be committed to memory in full. In a Western context, the watchfulness Solzhenitsyn exhibits could even be thought of as selfish, obstinate, calculating. Khrushchev, his champion, is toppled: Solzhenitsyn admits to a certain relief—gratitude can lead to self-censorship. After the arrest of Sinyavsky and Daniel in 1965 and the theft of the manuscript of The First Circle from the magazine Now Mir's safe, Solzhenitsyn consciously goes on the offensive; the ensuing protests, statements, the decision not to go to Stockholm for the Nobel lest the government lock the door behind him—it all seems like something out of Von Clausewitz. And his readiness to score trimmers like Shostakovich, to condemn outright dissidents like the Medvedev brothers, even Sakharov, as intellectually dishonest—there is a certain tone of episcopal hauteur and dictator-ishness in this that's hard to ignore. Yet the "literary life" Solzhenitsyn lived was one he realized from the beginning had to be strategic, given the history of modern Russian letters; and nowhere in the book is this knowledge more forcefully brought home than in its most oddly "human" pages: a portrait of Alexsandr Tvardovsky, the editor of Novy Mir, alcoholic, frightened yet almost hypnotizedly brave, testing, retreating, keeping faith in his "discovery": Solzhenitsyn. Reading the manuscript of Cancer Ward ("You are a terrible man. If I ever came to power, I'd put you away"), Tvardovsky gets blind drunk, asks Solzhenitsyn to rehearse with him his (Tvardovsky's) interview with the KGB that's sure to come if he publishes this. He's a massive, ambiguous, tragic character—and all of Solzhenitsyn's Russian-novelist skills go effortlessly into his depiction. Tvardovsky's pathetic end—removed as editor of Novy Mir, the magazine shut down, a stroke, death—fully justifies the tetchy temple of facts Solzhenitsyn has erected here perhaps as a kind of memorial to him. Unsettling, but compelling.

Pub Date: May 7, 1980

ISBN: 0002721589

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1980

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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