A searching portrait of an arrogant, heroic and willful man—a mix of Jean Genet, Don Quixote and King Lear.

LIMONOV

THE OUTRAGEOUS ADVENTURES OF THE RADICAL SOVIET POET WHO BECAME A BUM IN NEW YORK, A SENSATION IN FRANCE, AND A POLITICAL ANTIHERO IN RUSSIA

The life of a controversial Russian writer and adventurer.

Journalist, novelist, screenwriter and director Carrère (My Life as a Russian Novel, 2010, etc.) was amazed when he heard some of Russia’s liberal intellectuals warmly praise Edward Limonov (b. 1943), infamous for his right-wing views and incendiary fascist remarks. That paradox inspired the investigation that resulted in this book, winner of the Prix Renaudot when it was published in France in 2011. Combining biography, political history and memoir, Carrère places Limonov’s “romantic, dangerous life” in the context of what he calls his own “bourgeois bohemian” experiences. Limonov, “a Russian Jack London,” has been wildly impetuous: A rebel, thug and poet, he left his native Ukraine when he was 24; moved to Moscow, where he eked out a living sewing pants; married a beautiful model with whom, in 1974, he immigrated to New York, imagining a “radiant future” as a writer. Despondent after his wife left him, he became a homeless tramp; then, in a sharp twist of fate, he got a job as butler to a multimillionaire, through whom he met a literary agent who placed his first book—autobiographical fiction—with a French publisher. Paris was next, where the literati treated him like “a bit of a star.” But he was restless. Learning of conflict in the Balkans, he decided to fight with the Serbs. When Carrère interviewed him in Moscow in 2007, he was leading a “national assembly of opposition forces.” Limonov has been opposed to political leaders (most recently, “cold and cunning” Putin), to the adulation bestowed upon such writers as Joseph Brodsky, Pasternak and Yevtushenko, and to glasnost, which led his countrymen to believe that they had been duped by “a gang of criminals.” Limonov prefers his Russia “powerful and morose.”

A searching portrait of an arrogant, heroic and willful man—a mix of Jean Genet, Don Quixote and King Lear.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-19201-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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