THE FADING SMILE

POETS IN BOSTON, FROM ROBERT FROST TO ROBERT LOWELL TO SYLVIA PLATH, 1955-1960

A pedestrian look at the postwar Boston poetry scene by a lesser poet filled with his own self-importance. With the possible exception of San Francisco, Boston in the late 1950s was home to more of the nation's poetic talent than any other city. The number of major talents either residing there or passing through certainly warrants a cultural history, but this isn't it. Davison, longtime poetry editor of the Atlantic Monthly, attempts an insider's look into the lives of such figures as Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, and Stanley Kunitz, all of whom he continually upstages. He ends a chapter on Anne Sexton, for example, by quoting one of his own poems in its entirety—in a book that generally quotes sparing snippets of verse. Of most value is the first chapter, which details the rise and demise of the Poets' Theatre of Cambridge, which commissioned new works by poets and gave them a stage. The rest of the text coasts superficially through everyone's life and work; the literary gossip is stale, poetic analysis almost absent. Everything but Davison's own career, which occupies a long second chapter, is treated in shorthand; even the glaring sexism of the Boston poetry scene is simply mentioned and dismissed. The coverage of women poets is particularly ungenerous and snippy; the chapter on Adrienne Rich ends with the unsupported observation, ``Though no poet of this period expended more agony on the will to change, others may well have more completely succeeded.'' Perhaps the central unanswered question of the period is the one posed by Richard Wilbur: ``A lot of people were falling apart and preparing to die, and I wonder to what extent that is really unrelated to choice of literary style.'' Don't look for answers here. (16 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-40658-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994

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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

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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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

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