MARIA MENEGHINI CALLAS

A study of Callas (1923-77) not to be missed. Scott (Artistic Director/London Opera Society; The Great Caruso, 1988) met and saw Callas perform several times in houses throughout the world and proves even more personally knowledgeable and fine-tuned about her voice than John Ardoin did in his encyclopedic The Callas Legacy (1977). Though a biography that breaks myths and draws upon fresh accounts written by Callas's family and secretary during the past decade, as well as upon interviews with Callas's fellow singers, conductors, and producers, this is as much a book about singing as about a person. The focus is equally upon the voice as the life, or upon the life of the voice, with only about a ten-year span in which the voice was at its most secure and responsive to every nuance of feeling Callas wished it to produce. Born in New York, she early began vocal training, went to Greece in the late 30's to study, began concertizing and learning roles. Most adept at florid bel canto, her voice stood up to the rigors of Isolde, Turandot, and Leonora, roles that called for a big sound to battle against the orchestra. She gave up these roles (Turandot was ``a voice-wrecker,'' and houses called for Isoldes in German, not Callas's limpid, spontaneous, tender Italian), turned largely to Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, and the young Verdi, in whom she found huge rooms of fresh vocal drama untouched by fellow singers, allowing space for her dramatic coloratura. While still ``amazingly fat,'' and jealous of her svelte sister, Jackie (as she was to be later of another svelte Jackie), she married her aging patron, Giovanni Meneghini, and in her voice's declining years ran off with aging billionaire Aristotle Onassis. Callas died in Paris, weakened by pills, abandoned by Ari. A feast for fans, refreshing as a bowl of sun-ripened pears. (Illustrations—not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 1992

ISBN: 1-55553-146-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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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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