THE RISE OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Everything that, in time, made TR an irresistible force the curiosity and concentration, the energy, the ardor, the dramatic flair vitalizes this hugely detailed, over-long (700 pp), and rather florid account of his life up to the presidency. But Morris is also locked into his concept of Roosevelt's "rise," persistently seeing in the sickly, bookish, solitary boy and the lovelorn Harvard dandy the future leader of men. It's the colorful, charismatic personality we have here, then, largely minus the drifting, the despondency and self-doubt that afflicted him even after he "rose like a rocket" (in his own words) to leadership of the New York State Assembly at the precocious age of 23. But those who were there to see it or, later, to witness his exuberant embrace of the still-wild West, his crusade as New York City Police Commissioner to stamp out Sunday liquor sales, have provided Morris with great copy: the toothy grin lighting up a sodbuster's hut; the cheerful, chest-thumping retort to a German protest-marcher's "Wo is der Roosevelt?" "Hier bin ich!" Never mind that, in the latter instance, Morris keeps equally close tabs on his running feud with a fellow-commissioner; the detail pays off when Roosevelt, escaping to the wider fields of Washington, puts the Navy in position to strike at Spain in "three or four hours" as Acting Secretary to the consternation of his boss, innocently off seeing an osteopath. Nothing here is really new not the jingoism, the personal rush to arms that soon had Roosevelt second-in-command (and, of course, foremost) of the Rough Riders, the compromise with Boss Platt that enabled him to function as New York's Governor, the ambivalence about the Vice-Presidential nomination. And wherever Morris' interpretation differs from that of Henry Pringle, still Roosevelt's best biographer, his penchant for histrionics warps his judgment: "With fulfillment [atop San Juan Heights] came purgation. Bellicose poisons had been breeding in him since infancy. . . . But at last he had had his bloodletting. . . Theodore Roosevelt was at last, incongruously, a man of peace." The real lesson, willy-nilly, is in seeing the fun he had being a great, boyish nuisance.

Pub Date: March 30, 1979

ISBN: 0375756787

Page Count: 964

Publisher: Coward-McCann

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1979

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A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier...

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalist

THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING

A moving record of Didion’s effort to survive the death of her husband and the near-fatal illness of her only daughter.

In late December 2003, Didion (Where I Was From, 2003, etc.) saw her daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, hospitalized with a severe case of pneumonia, the lingering effects of which would threaten the young woman’s life for several months to come. As her daughter struggled in a New York ICU, Didion’s husband, John Gregory Dunne, suffered a massive heart attack and died on the night of December 30, 2003. For 40 years, Didion and Dunne shared their lives and work in a marriage of remarkable intimacy and endurance. In the wake of Dunne’s death, Didion found herself unable to accept her loss. By “magical thinking,” Didion refers to the ruses of self-deception through which the bereaved seek to shield themselves from grief—being unwilling, for example, to donate a dead husband’s clothes because of the tacit awareness that it would mean acknowledging his final departure. As a poignant and ultimately doomed effort to deny reality through fiction, that magical thinking has much in common with the delusions Didion has chronicled in her several previous collections of essays. But perhaps because it is a work of such intense personal emotion, this memoir lacks the mordant bite of her earlier work. In the classics Slouching Toward Bethlehem (1968) and The White Album (1979), Didion linked her personal anxieties to her withering dissection of a misguided culture prey to its own self-gratifying fantasies. This latest work concentrates almost entirely on the author’s personal suffering and confusion—even her husband and daughter make but fleeting appearances—without connecting them to the larger public delusions that have been her special terrain.

A potent depiction of grief, but also a book lacking the originality and acerbic prose that distinguished Didion’s earlier writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-4314-X

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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