Finding the Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travelsby Adam Hochschild
Adam Hochschild was born in New York City in 1942. His first book, Half The Way Home: A Memoir Of Father And Son, was published in 1986. It was followed by The Mirror At Midnight: A South African Journey, and The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin. The Unquiet Ghost won the Madeline Dane Ross Award of the Overseas Press Club of America, given to "the best foreign correspondent in any medium showing concern for the human condition. Hochschild's work has also won prizes from the World Affairs Council, the Eugene V. Debs Foundation and the Society of American Travel Writers. An anthology of his shorter pieces, Finding The Trapdoor: Essays, Portraits, Travels, won the 1998 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award for the Art of the
Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost: A Story Of Greed, Terror And Heroism. In Colonial Africa was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It, Half The Way Home, and The Unquiet Ghost were all named Notable Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review. His books have been translated into six languages.
Besides his books, Hochschild has also written for The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, The Nation, and many other newspapers and magazines. He is a former commentator on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
Hochschild teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, and has been a guest teacher at other campuses in the U.S. and abroad. In 1997-98, he was a Fulbright Lecturer in India. He lives in San Francisco with his wife Arlie, the sociologist and author. They have two sons.
Hochschild is a thoughtful, discerning reporter and a solid writer, but some of this material may seem a little stale, like picking up a decade-old newsmagazine and reading about life in the Soviet Union. Still, he's quite good in pieces such as "Aristocratic Revolutionary," a 1985 profile of Patrick Duncan, a white South African who was editor of an anti-apartheid paper in the early 1960s. One of his best pieces is a 1978 profile of Jan Yoors, a Belgian youth who ran away with the gypsies in 1934; Hochschild found the renowned author of The Gypsies and Crossing residing near Washington Square, a double amputee who made his living designing and weaving tapestries. Another visit finds the author in the French Alps with novelist and art critic John Berger, whom he liked "because he was the first writer I've run across who could explain why so much fine art is boring." Hochschild traveled extensively for these pieces: Mississippi, the Soviet Union, Senegal, El Salvador, South Africa, the Amazon. One 1995 article finds him in Colombia to witness the Indians' "startling migration in reverse": They were leaving the towns and missions and "rebuilding their traditional dwellings deep in the forest." A few literary essays are included, most notably a penetrating search for the young, sensitive Hemingway who existed before the myth, the "Papa" persona, the compulsive braggart, took over. And charmingly, this redoubtable peacenik of the '60s and '70s confesses to a lifelong addiction to war novels and books about combat.
These pieces speak clearly to the times in which they were written, but not to the ages.
- Syracuse University Press
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Unlike other mammals, writers are not born into the world knowing how to make their own particular noise. Almost from the beginning, wolves howl, hogs grunt, bears growl. They need no MFA programs in growling, or summer workshops in discovering the grunt within. Even if separated from their families at birth and raised by some other species, they still know the right sound. But writers are different: all too easily they mistake someone else's sound for their own. For many years, that's what happened with me.
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