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A curious and lyrical study that touches on many important ideas, but often only glancingly.

A recursive prose-poem contemplating addiction, dance, and the need for pathbreaking art.

In her latest, Fusselman (Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die, 2015, etc.) focuses on breaking with artistic tradition, and structurally, she tries to practice what she preaches. Though she doesn’t play with line breaks, she often deploys a one-sentence-per-paragraph method that gives a poetic aura to her observations—e.g., “Now my mother is frail. Now my mother is getting smaller. Now my mother’s bed is moving and she cannot sleep.” The author uses the object of the title—an instrument that sounds when struck—as a slippery metaphor for her art and being, encompassing her risk-taking as a drinker to Tchaikovsky’s open-minded approach to composing The Nutcracker. The work is interspersed with imagery of mice, cockroaches, bunnies, and tiny vehicles, serving as allegories of drinking, the author’s tense relationship with her mother, and Tchaikovsky, too. Well, maybe; if it all doesn’t entirely make sense, that serves her purpose just fine: “Why can’t more authors just abandon their lumbering storylines halfway through and move on to something more interesting, like dancing candy?” It’s not a hollow provocation: The best pieces of the work explore how The Nutcracker, now a drowsy Yuletide warhorse, was a radical creative act, inviting a rare dreamlike perspective to the stage, envisioning a blend of word and movement that, one interviewee tells Fusselman, died at the hands of the modernists. The author’s layering of her thematic ideas gives the book the feel of a mood piece—like a Steve Reich composition where riffs phase in and out—which makes it a pleasure on a sensual level. However, because she never lingers long on any one idea, readers may feel that there is much more to be said about motherhood, alcoholism, art, and physicality than is being delivered.

A curious and lyrical study that touches on many important ideas, but often only glancingly.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-56689-513-2

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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