A celebrity memoir cliché, if there ever was one! Houston stuffed her book with poolside parties, Hollywood affairs and crash and burn artists of everA celebrity memoir cliché, if there ever was one! Houston stuffed her book with poolside parties, Hollywood affairs and crash and burn artists of every ilk. There are huge sections of this book that feel exactly like a hurried acceptance speech. Everyone gets a name mention including her 50 odd pets, horses and the many chefs who catered the endless string of parties. Really Anjelica, did you have to name each chef? … every time…! Anjelica runs off to her room a lot, sulking or weeping over betrayals and tragedies. It's just tough to be entirely empathetic to a starlet who has the family funds to flit back and forth from Hollywood, to Aspen, to London and New York. Jack Nicholson summed it all up when he offered Anjelica advice about pairing movie genres with the season, "...One should DO a Western every summer!" Everything you need to know about this memoir can be found on the cover jacket. Anjelica is poised chin up with a assured half-baked smile. She is glancing sideways and manages to look proud and guarded at the same time. Her bare shoulder is prominently featured, sans chip, but everyone knows it’s still there... including Anjelica. Hence the title. I think she is either smart and brash… OR she is gullible and bitchy. Jack knows the truth… don’t you Jack ;-). ...more
As a convenient metaphor, Michael Perry kinda pushes this memoir out like an egg. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. As we have come to expAs a convenient metaphor, Michael Perry kinda pushes this memoir out like an egg. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with it. As we have come to expect from Perry, it has the same folksy charm and the same exquisite descriptions of both land and life. Still, it felt a little more like an excellent journal and a little less like a memoir. There are Wisconsin chestnuts to be had, but he also threw me for a loop. This is the first Perry book (that I have read) that introduces us to his faith. His two previous memoirs only hint at his woodsy, bible thumping ways. I’m not opposed to a man’s declaration-- I just didn't see it coming. If you have not read Perry, I would not start here. Double back and read (or listen to) the author’s early stuff. Both “Population 485” and “Visiting Tom” capture an authentic slice of rural Americana....more
Let’s start by agreeing that this memoir is incredibly well written. Cheryl Strayed is intelligent, insightful, adventurous and very determined. She i Let’s start by agreeing that this memoir is incredibly well written. Cheryl Strayed is intelligent, insightful, adventurous and very determined. She is also a little unhinged (which makes for an interesting book). As a proof point, consider the fact that she admitted to a marriage-ending-affair and then she willfully changed her last name on her divorce papers to Cheryl Strayed. Think about that for a sec., she intentionally hung a scarlet letter around her neck. Talk about self-flogging. Who would do that and what are they trying to prove? The cross country trek is a watershed moment for her, but not-so-much for me. Does it live up to the Oprah / Witherspoon hype? No, it does not. Here are four 5-star memoirs written by women that deserve your precious time: Mary Karr’s “Liar’s Club”, Jeannette Walls, “The Glass Castle”, Alexandra Fuller’s, “Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight”, and the classic, Beryl Markham, “West with the Night”. Read all 4 of them before you pick up Wild or just skip ahead to the movie. ...more
A powerful personal memoir detailing the extraordinary and gruesome Rwandan genocide and one survivor’s heroic 76 day stand against it. What a juxtapoA powerful personal memoir detailing the extraordinary and gruesome Rwandan genocide and one survivor’s heroic 76 day stand against it. What a juxtaposition, to describe pure evil on earth with such beautiful and clean prose. Ruseisabagina tells a noble and smart story about his successful attempt to shelter and shield thousands of Tutsis and Hutus within his hotel. By a sense of duty and justice, he boldly fended off a homicidal mob of machete wielding Hutus. He did it mostly with words, diplomacy and guts... plus a lot of luck! Ruseisabagina’s memoir is transporting and unforgettable. This could have easily been three separate books. A touching memoir of his childhood and his father (a tribal leader). A philosophical and sociological history lesson on war and the two wild extremes it generates, good vs. evil. And of course, a sweeping action thriller with a climactic and heroic ending. Two of my favorite quotes. The first is an African proverb, “If a man does not know his Father, he has lost the opportunity to learn from his Grandfather.” Another is an old quote from Lincoln, that Ruseisabagina uses to defend his “do anything” selflessness. “If I need to free all the slaves to keep the nation whole, I will. If I need to free no slaves to keep the nation whole, I will. If I need to free some slaves and not others, I will. I will keep this nation whole at all cost.” ...more
Cherry’s 1912 classic adventure memoir combines and edits several other surviving diaries and does a wonderful job detailing Scott’s ill fated South PCherry’s 1912 classic adventure memoir combines and edits several other surviving diaries and does a wonderful job detailing Scott’s ill fated South Pole Terra Nova Expedition. A long line of excellent reviews have already detailed this epic adventure and tragedy... So, I’ll skip a formal review and just outline a few of my own observations.
Cherry spent months attempting to traverse Antarctica in a perpetual sunless winter. Striking out in pitch black, often in snow storms, he tells of the countless times he and or members of his party (and dog teams) fell blindly into invisible crevasses. The potential disaster is mentioned so often, that the reader becomes numb to the incredible terror that this must have triggered, not to mention the physical exhaustion of pulling, dragging and picking one’s way back to apparent safety. Cherry must have recognized the redundancy, so in the middle of his book he goes into detail about the wild free fall, the back-breaking lurch at the end of the tethered harness and the exhausting recovery. Back at camp the danger would be dismissed with typical 1912 British bravado -- after each near tragedy, their comradeship would skyrocket.
My only real criticism (beyond the book’s heft) is Cherry's whitewashing and glory-writing while describing his teammates. No group of men, thrown into desperate circumstances are THAT good together! I blame three circumstances on Cherry’s hero worship; first, their close dependency on each other; second, Cherry’s impressionable age (he was in his 20’s); and finally, he knew his diary was likely his public legacy. He gets away with this near fatal flaw because his story does not need a antagonist. The natural villain is not a person, it’s Mother Nature and she’s a real killer!
He also personally survives a crazy sperm whale attack, as they worked in unison to crack and then explode through the ice field in an effort to snatch their running dog team from the solid ice shelf. Sounds like a scene from an old B-Sci-Fi called “Tremors!”
Other wild subplots include a month long death march to capture Emperor Penguin eggs (really!?... 4 guys, for weeks, in a -70º hurricane, for eggs!?... really!). Within that side story, Cherry chillingly describes his own temporary resolve to die.
A long story has some stretch room for nuance. As a fine example, Cherry takes his time describing the beauty and oddity of such a sparse landscape. He details the dramatic tricks in perspective caused by the absence of landmarks on such a grand scale. In his telling, one day he marched toward a strange shadowed mound on a distant horizon only to arrive at a discarded wrapper some 100 yards away. He didn’t discover and adjust his error in perspective until he was within a couple feet. That has to freak you out a bit! I first discovered this book because it’s title showed up on a National Geographic list of Top 100 Adventure Stories. Since then, I’ve made it a practice to read one or two a year. How does this South Pole survival story fair against the other classics? I would rank it well above the line, but just below a couple awesome stories. The short list below are all from the same cut and cloth, the British glory days of exploration. Strong competitors include; “The Endurance,” “The Forgotten Men,” “We Die Alone,” maybe even “The Long Walk” (note: The Long Walk has long been rumored to be heavily fictionalized).
Overall, very well done! However, modern readers beware; Cherry's turn of the century British verse is both charming and stiff....more
1/3 lecture, 1/3 commentary, 1/3 personal history; all told in a fresh, airy writing style. Amazing insight and reflection from a truly original 70 yr1/3 lecture, 1/3 commentary, 1/3 personal history; all told in a fresh, airy writing style. Amazing insight and reflection from a truly original 70 yr old actor. This is a careful and thoughtful book. He preaches of family values; upbringing, poverty, black prejudices, integrity and the film industry. Sydney does not put it all out there, but he puts enough and he is a damn fine writer. I need to see his films again while his writing is still fresh. (02)
I know he has a second memoir and I'd be very interested in hearing reviews of his current effort. Thanks, Dave...more
Bragg’s incredible gift for delivering flesh and blood southern authenticity is on generous display within this collection. He has assembled a seriesBragg’s incredible gift for delivering flesh and blood southern authenticity is on generous display within this collection. He has assembled a series of profiles from the grizzled poverty of a notorious Alabama mill town (his own hometown). The stories are at turns tragic, noble, soulful and throbbing. Bragg supplies a rich full first-person account that indirectly answers the obvious question, “Why would whole families choose to stay in an industry that literally, slowly, stole away their very breath?” The bottom line; just like most of us, they did it for their families. In addition, social norms, ignorance and fear bent their will. In ranking Bragg’s book within the context of his past efforts, I’d say it comes in a close third (Ava’s Man is still number #1, All Over But The Shouting is #2). Please don’t that dissuade you, each of Bragg’s books has few rivals within the category of contemporary southern memoirs. This is a great book....more
Dispatches is a superb collection with a flashes of brilliance. Herr is a gifted writer and a measured study of the motivations behind man’s actions.Dispatches is a superb collection with a flashes of brilliance. Herr is a gifted writer and a measured study of the motivations behind man’s actions. I loved it. One way to adequately critique Herr is to put his flame next to O’Brien’s excellent collection, “The Things They Carried.” In suggesting a comparison, I’ve immediately placed Herr next to the very best in War Short Stories. O’Brien’s disturbing gift was his use of unbelievably beautiful and poetic prose... while describing... some of the most horoific war crimes imaginable. Michael Herr’s, “Dispatches” does not present such a garish clash between style and content. In comparison, Herr keeps Dispatches style true to journalistic excellence in expose’; it is fast, blunt and punchy. His writing seems less effected and less imagined then O’Brien’s work. Regardless, both books serve up a flashing glimpse at the emotional range and rage of war. The contrast between man’s capacity for compassion and insane-evil is both jarring and riveting. ...more
A horse book that takes you to the rail and wins (sorry for the pun). A rags to riches tale of the unlikely media sensation during the depths of the dA horse book that takes you to the rail and wins (sorry for the pun). A rags to riches tale of the unlikely media sensation during the depths of the depression. I now know a bit of the inside scoop on horse racing and the tragic heroes that scrape their living from the spoils of the game. Like all sports, this is a passionate obsession as much as it is a pursuit of excellence. There is no balance in a winner-take-all long shot. Hillenbrand knows how to write. This is a crisp, action packed history of one of the world's legendary horses. ...more