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Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Life Paperback – Bargain Price, December 27, 2005

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Editorial Reviews Review

Unheroic in appearance, given to "deacon-sober suits" and "ponderous gravity," Martin Luther King Jr. ushered in an epochal era of change in the United States. Closely watching King's journey from Montgomery to Birmingham to the Lincoln Memorial to Memphis was journalist Marshall Frady, who honors the minister's achievement and spirit in this lucid biography.

"Almost a geological age ago, it seems now--that great moral saga of belief and violence that unfolded in the musky deeps of the South during the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties." So Frady opens his account, which traces King's transformation from withdrawn, unconfident child to eloquent champion of the oppressed, ever unafraid to trouble the waters. Frady explores King's conflicts, contradictions, and triumphs, as well as the great personal cost he bore in urging nonviolent change in a singularly violent time.

Part of the excellent Penguin Lives series, this slender volume sheds much light on a prophet now honored, but still too little understood. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

When Dr. King made the cover as Time's Man of the Year in 1963, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover "snorted in a remark passed around the Bureau, `They had to dig deep in the garbage for this one.'" It is details such as this that make this short biography of a much-written about subject both potent and illuminating. For the latest entry in the Penguin Lives series, Frady (Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson) has produced a sharp, politically insightful, emotionally astute and psychologically complex portrait of a man whose complicated life and work is often reduced to simplistic hagiography. While this biography uses a standard chronological narrative as its spine, Frady constantly reframes facts and their accepted meanings with new information that gives readers fresh, often startling interpretations, or reminds us of facts that have slipped to the periphery (Rosa Parks was not simply a woman who refused to change her seat on the bus, but an active member of the NAACP who knew the political implications of her act). Never shying away from controversial topics, such as King's deep rage against the U.S. war in Vietnam or the plagiarized portions of his writing, Frady also perceptively analyzes how King's political strategizing emerged from his often conflicted emotional needs many of his bold, decisive gains for the civil rights movement were predicated on a Clintonian need for contact and adulation, according to the author. Yet Frady's sensitive, succinct presentation never lets King's foibles obscure his tremendous contributions to American life. (Jan.)Forecast: With such titles as Edna O'Brien's James Joyce and Wayne Koestenbaum's recent Andy Warhol, the Penguin Lives series has propagated a distinctive form of biography, drawing heavily on the magazine profile form. A few readers may be starting to follow the series as a whole and will pick this up; others will find reacquaintance with King's nonviolent tactics for liberation a refreshing read in difficult times.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Dec-27-2005 (December 27, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036487
  • ASIN: B000GG4HNO
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,173,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By John Knight on May 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best of the often excellent Penguin Lives series. Martin Luther King is presented as a real man with insecurities, self-doubts, college plagarizing and womanizing. But he is also shown as the key individual in the incredible progress (I know it doesn't feel like it--but read the book and its picture of the country in the fifties!) we have made in the area of race relations.
MLK is portrayed as a man who rose above his everydayness to achieve insights into the areas of race, poverty and oppression which would move a nation. Blessed in his enemies--the egregious Bull Connor, the banty rooster George Wallace (in his first incarnation) and the despicable J. Edgar Hoover--gave the nation a contrast in possibilities. Despite the reluctance of the Kennedys, the backbiting of his own lieutenants and the inconstancy of the national media, MLK made a difference. To read about his speech at the Linclon Memorial still gives me shivers.
This is a fair, honest portrait of a man who made a difference.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In a short space, Marshall Frady has written an informative, inspiring and thoughtful biography of Martin Luther King Jr., of the nature of his achievement, of his America, and of his vision. The book does not engage in hero-worship or myth-making but rather presents Dr. King as a tortured.conflicted, and lonely individual. Frady writes at the close of his introduction (p.10) (itself a wonderful summation of the book and of Dr. King's achievement): "And what the full-bodied reality of King should finally tell us, beyond all the awe and celebration of him, is how mysteriously mixed, in what torturously complicated frms, our moral heroes -- our prophets --actually come to us."
A theme of this book is how Dr. King's moral vision and achievement emerged from moral conflict. Dr King spent most of his career walking a difficult path between extremes. At the beginning of his career, he was criticized by the more conservative black establishment which preferred to use the courts rather than demonstrations as a means to promote racial equality. Indeed, Frady tells us, the Mongomery bus boycott of 1955, which catapaulted Dr. King into national prominence, did not end the segregation of the city's bus system -- a court decision did.
Towards the end of his career, black leaders such as Malcolm X and Stokely Charmichael pressured Dr. King to abandon his philosophy of nonviolence. He did not do so. But Frady shows us how Dr. King and Malcolm X near the end of their lives each learned something from the other.
King's most difficult moral struggle was with himself. Frady gives us a convincing picture of how Dr. King, whose appeal rested upon an ability to convey moral and religous principle, struggled (unsuccessfully) with sexuality.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bonita L. Davis on December 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Since his death in 1968, a plethora of books about Martin Luther King, Jr. has inundated the shelves of bookstores. Every angle about his life and work has been explored, critiqued and analyzed. Is there room for one more as we continue the quest for making King's dream for equality a reality? Penquin Lives says yes as it presents a brief biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. as seen through the eyes of a white southern reporter during the era, Marshall Frady.
Mr. Frady was one of those reporters assigned to interpret and bring some sense of clarity to the public about the rising civil rights movement and its major leader, King. As a young reporter, he carried out his mission and now as an older statesman of the press he gives us another view about King, his work and his impact on the national scene.
Martin Luther King, Jr. focuses on the success, failures and conflicts of a leader caught in a movement that swept him up into the pinacles of history. We see another dimension of King who is vain, unorganized, guilt ridden and a womanizer. His lieutenants are egotistical, mystical, self-serving and dedicated to the cause of freedom. King's genius in keepint these varied personalities in check for a greater cause is a testament to his genius.
Frady really doesn't tell the reader anything new about King that hasn't been said before. He merely encapsulates previous information into a format that is readily accessible to those who want to get a brief history of King and the movement but can't endure reading works of countless pages of information. In this Frady excels and does a fine job of being brief but doesn't offer the reader in better insights about the man.
I would recommend this book to those who want to get a brief snapshot of King from the perspective of a white southerner. Otherwise I would encourage readers to explore other books that give a more in depth look at the complex life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Buck Leonard on January 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Simply put, this is the finest of the Penguin Lives series. It gives Dr. King in simple sentences, does not ignore the complexities of his life, and does not indulge in the myth making of previous biographers. You get the man, with his failures, successes, obsessions and ironies, all in one tight package. Wonderful read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tony Sanchez on April 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Marshall Frady's book is an invaluable addition to the historical, sociological, and psychological understanding of this country's race relations. In particular, he does not limit the story to what happened decades earlier, but relates the historical events to more recent history. Thankfully, the book treats Dr. King as a human being with faults (e.g., his insecurities, self-doubts, womanizing), and not as a saint (as sometimes portrayed in MLK day celebrations) or as a commodity (as marketed by his family). The value of discussing Dr. King honestly is that his vision for society is not limited to the saints, but can be more practically considered by us regular folks with our shortcomings.
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