Maxine Kumin, who died last year at 88, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, essayist and children’s book author who served as U.S. poet laureate and bred horses on her New Hampshire farm. Kumin’s memoir, The Pawnbroker’s Daughter, comprises five essays, four of which first appeared in American Scholar and Georgia Review. These charming recollections will now reach a wider readership in book form.
Children’s earliest memories are of their families. Siblings, especially the closer they are in age, are our first friends, the only people in the world who shared the same womb and share the same memories. But what if your only memories of your siblings are how they disappeared?
Inspect Europe today, and you would struggle to believe that its greatest scuffles were once about anything other than bailouts and shared currency, or Eurovision and football. Yet 2015 marks the bicentennial of a battle that stands as a summation of that continent's centuries of bloody wars, particularly those of the 20th: Waterloo. Two new books take different approaches to remembering this conflict.
While they are often roped together as Western or regional writers (narrow classifications they both loathed), and their prime writing years and geographic terrain overlapped to a degree, there could not have been two more different writers—or men—than Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey.
The end of World War II in Europe brought a wide range of reactions, especially in Germany. From concentration camp prisoners to top Nazi officers, from refugees crowding the roads to soldiers eager to see the war finally over, there was a mixture of heartbreak, relief, chaos and disbelief. For German novelist Walter Kempowski, who died in 2007, researching and compiling those responses, through eyewitness accounts, letters and diaries, became a lifelong mission. The result was 10 volumes and a diary of his project’s progress.
“Let’s get one thing straight right from the beginning: I didn’t set out to be a comma queen.” In fact, Mary Norris explored quite a few interesting career paths before finding her calling as a copy editor at The New Yorker. Her work life began at the age of 15, checking feet at a public pool in Cleveland. She went on to drive a milk truck, package mozzarella at a cheese factory, and wash dishes (all the while managing to pursue a graduate degree in English).
In his engaging and provocative Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy, Emory University anthropologist and neuroscientist Konner (The Tangled Wing) admits that his book contains something to offend everyone. The idea that important differences in gender identity and behavior are based in biology will not please feminists, and the idea that women are superior to men will offend a lot of men, he writes.
The African-American struggle continues in every corner of the nation, from small towns like Ferguson, Missouri, to the boroughs of New York. Thus, Black History Month arrives at a critical time in America. The question is: Can we learn from history? These selections shed new light on the black experience and offer perspectives on the often painful evolution of race relations in America.
Bibliophiles know books are the perfect gifts, rendering “they’re so hard to buy for” an empty lament. To wit, this trio of titles truly has something for everyone. All hail the curious mind!
One of the first artists featured in Sarah Thornton’s fascinating 33 Artists in 3 Acts is American Jeff Koons, who tells her that he never wants people to feel small when they view his art. Clearly Thornton ascribes to a similar principle. In this witty, smart follow-up to her 2008 bestseller, Seven Days in the Art World, Thornton generously cracks the sometimes perplexing code of modern art.