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He succeeds, and students of Jefferson will find his latest effort most illuminating.

Among the things that absorbed the Founding Father’s waking thoughts: death, sex, God, and diarrhea.

Burstein’s title is rather more breathless than the contents of this accessible, scholarly account. Like kindred recent other studies, such as Joanne Freeman’s Affairs of Honor (2001), Burstein’s takes a confident step toward reviving the old mentalités school of history, examining not just what people did but what they thought and believed. In this regard alone, Burstein (History/Univ. of Tulsa; America’s Jubilee, 2001, etc.) adds a nuanced chapter to the ever-roiling debate over whether Jefferson believed in God, much less whether he was a Christian. The best evidence that Jefferson was a believer, Burstein writes, comes late in life in a letter to his old friend and sometime rival John Adams, taking God to be “the mind of the universe”; yet, Burstein adds, Jefferson also took Jesus to be a philosopher and the Bible to be a work of history, not religion, and in general “trusted only in the known world.” The known world of Monticello included the eternal verities of birth, life, and death, and Burstein explores each, providing particular insight into the ways in which Jefferson’s views of health colored his discourse and conception of other aspects of the world. Agrarianism, for instance, was to be preferred over urbanism because the “mobs of great cities” drain the strength of the body politic “as sores do to the strength of the human body”; the Federalists, his political enemies, were “nervous persons, whose languid fibres have more analogy with a passive than active state of things”; African-Americans were deficient “in physical, if not moral, constitution”; and so on. Burstein adds interesting footnotes to the discussion surrounding Jefferson’s relations with Sally Hemings and his views of slavery generally, but mostly he concentrates on what he started out to do: “to convey the imagination of an eighteenth-century man who read incessantly but safeguarded his innermost thoughts.”

He succeeds, and students of Jefferson will find his latest effort most illuminating.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-465-00812-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2004

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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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