biography

Michelle Tea has been many things: poet, novelist, memoirist, columnist, editor, drummer, film producer and darling of the queercore scene. She captured the hearts of punk-literature fans with her 1998 debut, the novel The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America, and drew praise from critics with her memoirs Rent Girl and The Chelsea Whistle.

Do you love your father? How do you love him? Is your affection spontaneous, dutiful, rote, wry, overflowing, ambivalent or simply unexamined? When you consider these questions — or decline to do so, thank you very much — consider also Nina Bunjevac's drawing style.

'Whipping Boy' Is Part Memoir, Part Crime Thriller

Jan 20, 2015

Bullying has become a hot-button issue in recent years, a fact that Allen Kurzweil hasn't overlooked in Whipping Boy. It's his first volume of nonfiction, and the premise is as ripped-from-the-headlines as they come: Forty years after suffering the vicious abuse of a bully in school, Kurzweil has written an account of his decades-long search for Cesar Augustus Viana, the boy who tormented him.

The best of comedian and actor Patton Oswalt lies in his ability to truthfully observe what is small but important. That's true in his comedy, but it's true in his writing, too. Here he is in his new memoir Silver Screen Fiend, talking about his desperation to make an impression in his first movie role, a tiny part in the Kelsey Grammer comedy Down Periscope:

Last year, when I heard that Anjelica Huston's memoir A Story Lately Told was about to come out, I was excited. I imagined that it would include a lot of inside stuff about the '70s and Hollywood and the actress' long relationship with Jack Nicholson. As it turned out, that book's subtitle was Coming of Age in Ireland, London and New York, and it ended with Huston arriving in California. But I didn't miss the glitz. The story she had to tell was original.

Rock 'n' roll was built on rebellion, but too often today, that's about as deep as the conversation goes — especially now that rock is so completely woven into the mainstream, it's hard to imagine a time when it wasn't pop-culture wallpaper.

I had a typical first experience with famed Russian emigre-turned auteur-turned neo-fascist revolutionary Edward Limonov: I misunderstood him.

Everybody misunderstands Edward at least once. Usually, they underestimate this slight, bearded man with the mild manners.

In 1859, Philadelphia surgeon Richard J. Levis published a piece in The Medical and Surgical Reporter titled "Memoir of Thomas Dent Mütter." It was a eulogy for his former teacher, a surgical pioneer who had died earlier that year at the tender age of 47. Mütter is also the subject of Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz's new book, Dr. Mütter's Marvels; in it, Aptowicz forgives the simplicity of Levis' tribute to Mütter by noting, "[Levis] was not a poet, just a surgeon." Aptowicz, on the other hand, is a poet.

'My Life' Asks: How Do You Leave A War Behind?

Sep 23, 2014

With each new story we hear about PTSD, about the lasting price paid by those fortunate enough to have returned from war, our notion of a soldier's sacrifice expands: There are those who sacrifice their lives, those who sacrifice parts of their bodies, and those who — forever anguished by their experiences — sacrifice their minds.

Will Boast's parents, Andrew and Nancy, met and married in Southampton, a port city on England's south coast. Fleeing the social and economic malaise that blighted the country in the late '70s — workers on strike, power outages and high inflation — and with ambitions for his young family, Boast Sr. moved them to Fontana, Wis., where he worked for a plastics company.

Add Marcos Giralt Torrente's Father and Son: A Lifetime to the shortlist of worthwhile memoirs about mourning a parent — a list that includes Philip Roth's Patrimony, Paul Auster's The Invention of Solitude, and Hanif Kureishi's My Ear at His Heart, all of which the author cites as touchstones for his exploration.

Celebrity child autobiographies fall into two categories. There's the scorched earth approach: One sordid story after another — call it the "Mommie Dearest" syndrome.

The second category is the warts-and-all approach, in which the performer's progeny relates parental faults in oft-painful detail, but with the ultimate goal of deeper understanding. In many ways, the warts-and-all way is more challenging, because it requires the author to explain why — despite the horrors — they still loved Mom or Dad.

Nostalgia is a hard-hitting drug, its alchemical powers well known, but can it turn a child's entire school experience into sentimental gold? Some kids love school, and many, in retrospect, realize that what seemed like misery at the time was actually relative joy compared to what came after. But to find a silver lining in even the most embarrassing, most angst-filled moments of your school years? Such a thing seemed impossible for even the most wistful of people, until I read Lewis Buzbee's Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom.

Published in Britain as Joss Whedon: Geek King of the Universe and in the U.S. less cheekily as Joss Whedon: The Biography, Amy Pascale's portrait of pop culture's man of just about any recent hour may not make her title subject any new converts, but it is hero-worshipping enough to make devoted Whedonites feel they're being inducted into the Scooby Gang.

People often expect military wives to be strong and stoic. But in her new memoir, No Man's War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife, Angela Ricketts writes about the difficulties she faced during her husband's deployments — including the stresses it put on their marriage and on raising their three children.

She also writes about the toll of always bracing herself for the next goodbye.

It's probably the most oft-cited literary fantasy of all time: I'm talking about that passage in Catcher in the Rye where Holden Caulfield says: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though."

Writing a biography of John Updike is a tricky thing: The acclaimed American writer of elegant essays and elegiac novels and short stories may have been a genius, but he was also disconcertingly normal. He liked to drink, but wasn't a drunk; he had two marriages, but wasn't a womanizer; he could be wistful, but rarely depressed. He was a straight, white, Christian man who liked golf.

Before he became famous — and infamous — for calling on black power for black people, Stokely Carmichael was better known as a rising young community organizer in the civil rights movement. The tall, handsome philosophy major from Howard University spent summers in the South, working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, to get African-Americans in Alabama and Mississippi registered to vote in the face of tremendous, often violent resistance from segregationists.

In the first half of the 20th century, aerial performers — not elephants or tigers — were the big draw at circuses. And nobody was a bigger star than Lillian Leitzel, a tiny woman from Eastern Europe who ruled the Ringling Brothers circus.