A captivating and insightful meditation on making a home among strangers.

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FRENCH DIVE

LIVING MORE WITH LESS IN THE SOUTH OF FRANCE

A big American family decamps to a tiny French apartment in this vibrant memoir.

In 2014, Wabash College English professor Freeze, the author of Invisible Men(2016), and his wife, Rixa, packed up their four kids, ages 1 through 7, and moved from Indiana to a 700-square-foot apartment in a 14th-century building in the French coastal city of Nice. Many Niçois were surprised that the couple had moved such a large clan to the cramped, touristy, overpriced city, but there were compensations, such as the bustling street life, gracious squares, and small stores; superb cheeses; and the pellucid blue Mediterranean. Much of the book recounts the family’s nest-building during a long renovation, assisted by a string of colorful construction workers; the narrative centerpiece is a hilariously surreal account of the Freezes’ appearance on the reality show House Hunters International, reenacting a grossly fictionalized, melodramatic version of the house hunting they’d done just months before. Threaded throughout are Freeze’s adventures in spearfishing as a way to get free food for his family, and the scenes of his epic dives depict both his intense guilt about “the violence of the thing I was prepared to do” and gripping, Hemingway-esque action as he stalks wary fish: “A roucaou finned its way toward me….It was still out of range but it didn’t seem to see me as a threat. It came closer. Three feet, two. My lungs were on fire.” Freeze’s limpid prose blends vivid travelogue and family portraiture with a defense of France’s simpler lifestyle, as well as a cleareyed critique of the country’s flaws, including racist treatment of African migrants: “Our benign and welcoming conversation with the immigration officer…was a stark contrast to the shouting matches and aggression that we heard in adjacent rooms.

A captivating and insightful meditation on making a home among strangers.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72526-615-5

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Slant

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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