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For casual readers, the brief personal passages may provide welcome pauses in what is a highly literate and demanding text...

An erudite analysis and exploration of curiosity through the author’s own works and those of countless others.

Manguel (A Reader on Reading, 2010, etc.), an Argentina-born Canadian essayist, translator, critic and editor, tackles a variety of difficult questions: Who am I? What is language? Where is our place? How are we different? Why do things happen? What can we possess? What comes next? In each of his 17 chapters, the author focuses on a different question posed by a curious mind, and each begins with a brief and sometimes-poignant anecdote from the author’s youth. Chief among the curious minds that fascinate Manguel is that of Dante, whose quest in The Divine Comedy is spiritual and who serves here as the author’s constant companion. It is worth noting that one of the book’s charms is the presence of numerous unusual illustrations, including many woodcuts from a 15th-century edition of Dante’s work. Among the fictional or mythical characters that readers meet on this journey through the history of mankind are Eve, Pandora, Ulysses and Ebenezer Scrooge, as well as a host of real scholars, religious figures, authors, poets, artists, philosophers and even economists. Human beings are, Manguel notes, self-conscious animals, capable of experiencing the world by asking questions and putting our curiosity into words, then turning those words into stories that lead to further questions. A fair sample can be found here. The author’s personal library is said to contain more than 30,000 volumes, and the wealth of references in this book demonstrates that he is indeed a voracious reader.

For casual readers, the brief personal passages may provide welcome pauses in what is a highly literate and demanding text perhaps best appreciated by followers of Manguel’s previous works.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-300-18478-5

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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

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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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