Of interest to Twain scholars and die-hard fans but not to a general audience.


A collection of writings by Twain, his wife and his eldest daughter that depict the day-to-day life of one of America’s most beloved writers and his family.

The six essays that comprise this volume form a unique biography of the Clemens clan during the time of its greatest thriving. The most complete piece, “A Family Sketch,” begins the book. Twain wrote it after the death of his eldest daughter, Susy, in 1896 but never published it. The author introduces readers to his three daughters and several family servants, including a resourceful black butler named George and an Irish wet nurse who “whooped like a Pawnee…swore like a demon…and drank great quantities of strong liquors.” The essay that follows, “A True Story,” was published in fictionalized form in the Atlantic Monthly in 1874. Like “Sketch,” it focuses on portraiture—in this case, of a long-suffering but ever cheerful black servant named Aunt Rachel. The two following pieces are more anecdotal in nature and offer a series of informal observations on the often silly and outrageous but sometimes remarkably wise words and actions of Twain's daughters. His wife, Livy, adds her voice to the mix in the fifth essay. Comprised of a series of journal entries she kept while the family summered at their Elmira, New York, home in 1884, the piece records the quotidian events of her family. Rounding out the collection is the essay, “Mark Twain” by Susy Clemens. Incomplete and deliberately unedited for spelling errors, Susy speaks with disarming honesty about her famous father and his flaws, which included a “peculiar gait” and teeth that were not “extraordinary.” These essays are refreshing for their at times draftlike quality. At the same time, that they are so “private and unpolished” limits their appeal.

Of interest to Twain scholars and die-hard fans but not to a general audience.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-520-28073-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...


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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