Probably not the best idea to read this book while pregnant. This is a terrifically-written, intense account of what it's like for your youngest child...moreProbably not the best idea to read this book while pregnant. This is a terrifically-written, intense account of what it's like for your youngest child, at two, to suddenly and inexplicably retreat from the world and from his family. It's distressing. The journey the Suskind's went through is gut-wrenching and utterly compelling. It's also exhausting.
I found this book after reading "Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney" in the New York Times Magazine. In some ways, the article is the better read. It's tighter, as it has to be to fit in an article. But it's also easier to read; the book, as I mentioned can be hard going. Not because of the writing, which is excellent, but because of the emotional intensity of the events. (As I said, this might be partly because I was reading it while pregnant, but I think it would hold true regardless.)
A difficult, but a beautiful, tragic, and amazing book. (less)
I have got to cut back on the memoirs of depressive, suicidal, female authors with writer's block.
In my defense, that's not really what I expected fr...moreI have got to cut back on the memoirs of depressive, suicidal, female authors with writer's block.
In my defense, that's not really what I expected from Dorothy Parker's biography. Before reading this, I had read some of her poetry and short fiction, and one quote from her book reviews (about Winnie the Pooh). I also knew she had a reputation for wonderful zingers. Based on that, and the inviting title of this book, I expected something maybe a little light, a little funny, maybe poignant.
It seems that most people throughout Parker's life (and after) expected that of her. And sometimes she delivered. But the real Parker was much deeper, much darker, and much more human. She struggled with her identity her whole life. She married the same man twice, but it's not the love story I always thought it was. She could be wonderfully kind to your face and then wittily cutting the minute you walked away. She struggled with writing, with money, with love, with drugs, with success, and with alcohol. Her life is a wonderfully compelling read, because that's the kind of person she was. Not always kind or wise, she was always witty, always funny, and always compelling.
I took a special, personal delight in her love for her dogs. Particularly her dachshund Robinson.(less)
This was a difficult book to read. Mostly because Sheldon's was a difficult life to live.
Raised by eccentric, charismatic parents, Sheldon had amazin...moreThis was a difficult book to read. Mostly because Sheldon's was a difficult life to live.
Raised by eccentric, charismatic parents, Sheldon had amazing early adventures including several safaris to Africa, back when that just wasn't something women did, especially not small, young, pretty, blonde, girl children.
Early prone to confusion regarding her sexual identity, impulsive behavior, mood swings, and depression, Sheldon struggled with adulthood. She alternated between viewing her childhood as a paradise lost and as the crucible that had nurtured her neuroses. She lived life bravely, rawly, and loudly.
The events of her life—service in WWII; explorations into art, espionage, and teaching; her heartbreaks; and her brilliant career as James Tiptree, Jr.—make a fascinating framework. But it's Sheldon's inner voyages that make the book so captivating. And not always captivating in a good way.
Phillips is a perfect biographer. Intuitive, insightful, and analytical when it comes to her subject, but she manages to remain a little aloof. She doesn't canonize or fall in love with Sheldon. She sticks to the story and offers comprehensive context.
Sheldon was early tempted by suicide. In many was, her life was a life of suicide deferred. I wasn't expecting the end when it came, but her murder of her husband, consequent phone calls, and then suicide was one of the hardest scenes I've ever read. All the harder for it being true.
This isn't an easy book. It's not a fun read, though it has very fun moments. It's dark and deep and raw and true. Which is just what Sheldon would have wanted.
An evocative, thought-provoking memoir of author Alexandra Fuller as she travels through Africa with an ex-soldier. It's moving, engrossing, and compu...moreAn evocative, thought-provoking memoir of author Alexandra Fuller as she travels through Africa with an ex-soldier. It's moving, engrossing, and compulsively readable. (less)
Now, having read that first book, I can see why she might be upset. It's an unflinching look at her childhood, warts and all. And, as a mother, that must be hard to read. But, as a woman not Fuller's mother, the love she feels for her family shines through. She obviously loves her mother, troubled though she may have at times been. She idolizes her sister Vanessa. She adores her father. And she loves Africa. They're all deeply flawed: alcoholic, emotionally disturbed, racist, and sometimes callous.
But they're Fuller's family, and she loves them. They're glorious in their disarray. And Fuller's book makes for riveting reading.(less)
This is such a good book. It's one of those that, after failing to hear your name called three times at the pool because you were reading this book, p...moreThis is such a good book. It's one of those that, after failing to hear your name called three times at the pool because you were reading this book, people finally ask "What are you reading?" To which I got to reply, "It's this really captivating biography. Of a taxidermist."
Which is what it is. Carl Akeley was a taxidermist, and an extremely gifted artist, who revolutionized the field of museum display and interpretation. But he was also a tireless inventor, who drastically improved the motion picture camera. He was an aggressive big-game hunter, a charismatic leader, and a dramatic lover. He lad a wild, riotous, fascinating life. Near the end of which he had an emotional epiphany and became an ardent conservationist. He helped create Virunga National Park and championed gorilla conservation.
If this bare list of facts doesn't make you immediately want to pick up the book, you'll likely feel that way when I tell you how very rigorously it was researched and footnoted (even my snobby scholar's sensibilities were satisfied) and as smoothly written and paced as a novel.
A superb example of what a historical biography can and should be.(less)
There's no discernible plot or storyline, and it's mainly the story of what happened at Highclere Castle during World War I, but it was well-enough wr...moreThere's no discernible plot or storyline, and it's mainly the story of what happened at Highclere Castle during World War I, but it was well-enough written and would be enjoyable for serious fans of Downton Abbey.
There were some frustrating attempts at foreshadowing that didn't work, and Almina was judged very lightly, but that's not enough to spoil the reading.(less)