ANOTHER BEAUTY

An engaging, occasionally frustrating, but generally very satisfying notebook, filled with acutely observed moments both...

A quirky, offbeat memoir-cum-journal from a leading Polish poet.

Although he modestly disclaims any major role in the Polish opposition of the 1970s and after, Zagajewski (Two Cities, 1995) is an important literary figure who was vocally dissident in the era of the great resistance to Communism in Poland. Here, he reflects back on those days and earlier with a mixture of dry-eyed nostalgia and wry-tongued wit. The author has no problem whatsoever in poking fun at the pretensions of a group of achingly, embarrassingly sincere 20-somethings—never hesitating to include himself among his targets. But the spirit of this book is generous to a fault, particularly in its evocation of the battered and weary faculty members whom he encountered during his college days in Krakow. What makes this volume unusual is its formal structure. Zagajewski alternates between reminiscences of the 1960s and ’70s in Krakow, prose poems about his current life in Paris (and Houston, although the Texas city is almost never evoked), and notebook and journal jottings on a wide range of topics, chiefly music and poetry. Holding this potpourri together are certain thematic threads: writers who opine in "defense of poetry" and what that entails; the variegated effects of music on troubled minds; the vagaries of memory; and the life of cities. As he admits early in the book, "I can only try to reclaim a few moments, a few places and events; a few people I liked and admired, and a few that I despised." The result is a series of elliptical, sometimes cryptic anecdotes, recollections, image flashes, and miniatures.

An engaging, occasionally frustrating, but generally very satisfying notebook, filled with acutely observed moments both past and present.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-17652-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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