Oct 28, 2010

new biographies

“It’s an old, old story: I had a friend and we shared everything, and then she died and so we shared that, too.” So begins this gorgeous memoir by Pulitzer Prize winner Gail Caldwell, a testament to the power of friendship, a story of how an extraordinary bond between two women can illuminate the loneliest, funniest, hardest moments in life, including the final and ultimate challenge.They met over their dogs. Both writers, Gail Caldwell and Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story, became best friends, talking about everything from their shared history of a struggle with alcohol, to their relationships with men and colleagues, to their love of books. They walked the woods of New England and rowed on the Charles River, and the miles they logged on land and water became a measure of the interior ground they covered. From disparate backgrounds but with striking emotional similarities, these two private, fiercely self-reliant women created an attachment more profound than either of them could ever have foreseen. The friendship helped them define the ordinary moments of life as the ones worth cherishing. Then, several years into this remarkable connection, Knapp was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.With her signature exquisite prose, Caldwell mines the deepest levels of devotion and grief in this moving memoir about treasuring and losing a best friend. Let’s Take the Long Way Home is a celebration of life and of the transformations that come from intimate connection—and it affirms, once again, why Gail Caldwell is recognized as one of our bravest and most honest literary voices.

No owner has changed the landscape of sports more than New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. From the moment he bought the team in 1973 for $10 million, Steinbrenner's monomaniacal pursuit was to restore the most fabled franchise in baseball history to its former glory. Today the New York Yankees are worth more than $1 billion and are once again world champions.
Award-winning sportswriter Bill Madden traces Steinbrenner from his early days in Cleveland through his years as a shipping magnate, a Nixon fund-raiser, and a champion horse breeder to the fateful moment when he bought the Yankees, even though his father disparaged George's desire to own a professional sports team as a "hobby." Over the next four decades, Steinbrenner's tumultuous reign included his epic battles with Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, even beloved Yankee captain Derek Jeter. His ruthless and free-spending tactics made him a lightning rod for controversy but they also paid off: Steinbrenner's Yankees have won seven championships and remain the gold standard in all sports. In the last few years, with his health declining, the Boss ceded control of the team to his sons, but not before lording over the team's historic transition from the House That Ruth Built to the House That George Built.
Throughout his three decades of covering the Yankees, Bill Madden has cultivated hundreds of sources at every level in the organization, from the many managers and front-office personnel Steinbrenner has fired to the bat boys who are ever present in the locker room. All of them have colorful stories about the man with whom they have enjoyed a love-hate relationship, but it is the Boss himself whose voice rises above the rest. And when Steinbrenner decided to give his final print interview, he spoke to Madden to set the record straight on his extraordinary life and career

In an age of bolters—women who broke the rules and fled their marriages—Idina Sackville was the most celebrated of them all. Her relentless affairs, wild sex parties, and brazen flaunting of convention shocked high society and inspired countless writers and artists, from Nancy Mitford to Greta Garbo. But Idina’s compelling charm masked the pain of betrayal and heartbreak. Now Frances Osborne explores the life of Idina, her enigmatic great-grandmother, using letters, diaries, and family legend, following her from Edwardian London to the hills of Kenya, where she reigned over the scandalous antics of the “Happy Valley Set.” Dazzlingly chic yet warmly intimate, The Bolter is a fascinating look at a woman whose energy still burns bright almost a century later.

From the author of the internationally acclaimed Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath comes a funny, touching memoir of a crummy—and crumby—childhood.Growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, Kate Moses was surrounded by sugar: Twinkies in the basement freezer, honey on the fried chicken, Baby Ruth bars in her father’s sock drawer. But sweetness of the more intangible variety was harder to come by. Her parents were disastrously mismatched, far too preoccupied with their mutual misery to notice its effects on their kids. A frustrated artist, Kate’s beautiful, capricious mother lived in a constant state of creative and marital emergency, enlisting Kate as her confidante—“We’re the girls, we have to stick together”—and instructing her three children to refer to her in public as their babysitter. Kate’s father was aloof, ambitious, and prone to blasts of withering abuse increasingly directed at the daughter who found herself standing between her embattled parents. Kate looked for comfort in the imaginary worlds of books and found refuge in the kitchen, where she taught herself to bake and entered the one realm where she was able to wield control.Telling her own story with the same lyricism, compassion, and eye for lush detail she brings to her fiction, coupled with the candor and humor she is known for in her personal essays, Kate Moses leavens each tale of her coming-of-age in Cakewalk with a recipe from her lifetime of confectionary obsession. There is the mysteriously erotic German Chocolate Cake implicated in a birds-and-bees speech when Kate was seven, the gingerbread people her mother baked for Christmas the year Kate officially realized she was fat, the chocolate chip cookies Kate used to curry favor during a hilariously gruesome adolescence, and the brownies she baked for her idol, the legendary M.F.K. Fisher, who pronounced them “delicious.”Filled with the abundance and joy that were so lacking in Kate’s youth, Cakewalk is a wise, loving tribute to life in all its sweetness as well as its bitterness and, ultimately, a recipe for forgiveness.

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