A popular biography of Russia's most famous composer, with particular emphasis on Tchaikovsky's sexual orientation and the controversy surrounding his death. How can you actively dislike a book honest enough to refer the reader on page one to the current ``standard survey of Tchaikovsky's work . . . David Brown's monumental `critical and biographical study' ''? Nonetheless, anyone fortunate enough to have access to the four-volume Brown study or even Brown's slighter Tchaikovsky Remembered will not need this new effort. Biographer Holden (Laurence Olivier, 1988, etc.) weighs in on the side of those scholars who assess the composer's guilt over his homosexuality as the dominant theme of his emotional life. Convinced that his death at age 53 was the result not of cholera (the official explanation) but of suicide brought on by fear of official exposure as a sodomist, Holden even sides with those who believe that Tchaikovsky was condemned to self-destruction by the verdict of a ``court of honor'' made up of his old law school classmates. This may be, although the biographer admits that the evidence is not conclusive and that even if Tchaikovsky's conduct had become known to the tsar, the sort of punishment and ruin that befell Oscar Wilde cannot be automatically assumed. What, if anything, all this tabloid-worthy detail adds to a listener's appreciation of Tchaikovsky's ravishing music or the prodigious quantity of his artistic output is unclear. Despite the author's stated desire to connect the music to the composer's suffering, little of real intellectual nourishment is offered. A list of ``Recommended Recordings'' is so lacking in cogent annotation as to be virtually worthless. The basic facts are here and it's not badly written, but this is not the kind of artist's biography that fulfills its primary function: sending the reader back to the music with eager ears and new insight.

Pub Date: March 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42006-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1996


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



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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