Loquacious, raving and madly provocative.

GHOST MILK

RECENT ADVENTURES AMONG THE FUTURE RUINS OF LONDON ON THE EVE OF THE OLYMPICS

The nimble London-based author offers a loose-limbed set of disgruntled observations on the massively disruptive development that became the 2012 Olympic Village.

A resident of Hackney, in the area of London that has been destined for transformation by the Summer Olympics, Sinclair (Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report, 2009, etc.) has watched the development over the past few years with consternation and alarm. The heart of the area is Stratford, once a shambling, marshy mess of loading docks called Chobham Farm, where the author, then a fledgling poet and college graduate, worked as a day laborer in 1971. His first essays form a poignant reflection on this now-lost world of scrappy young transients eking out a hand-to-mouth existence unloading sea containers and loading lorries. Subsequently, the area was seized by what Sinclair believes was a nefarious “intimate liaison” between government and development, in a manner he compares both to the German model and to the Chinese system (in one chapter, a Chinese poet now living in London reflects on the similar “destruction of history” he witnessed in Beijing in preparation for the 2008 games). In “Ghost Milk,” the author examines the disturbance of long-settled industrial waste on the multi-acre site, which provoked an ecological disaster. Sinclair is a veteran trekker among the urban wasteland. Inspired by Peter Ackroyd’s 2007 film Thames: Sacred River, as well as by the work of J.G. Ballard, he took off by foot for a river walk to Oxford; more ambitiously, he traveled to the former Olympic sites in Berlin and Athens and to the Ballard holdings at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. American readers will be alternately delighted and disoriented by Sinclair’s spastic, giddy literary circumambulations.

Loquacious, raving and madly provocative.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-86547-866-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Faber & Faber/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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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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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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