Despite limitations on research, Lubow sharply captures Arbus’ restlessness, pain, and artistic vision.

Photographer Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was addicted to danger, sex, and human oddities.

Arbus left a huge legacy of prints, contact sheets, journals, appointment diaries, unpublished writings, and letters. Unfortunately, her estate does not allow researchers access to this material, nor did they authorize publication of Arbus’ photographs for this biography. Nonetheless, Lubow (The Reporter Who Would Be King, 1992), who has served as a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine and a staff writer at the New Yorker, perceptively describes 164 images, providing information about where readers can find them published. Drawing on a huge number of interviews, related archives, and Arbus’ several publications, the author produces a thorough, sympathetic portrait of a complicated woman who, from childhood on, stood out as “totally original.” Arbus began her career as a fashion photographer with her husband, Allan Arbus. The couple did advertising work for Arbus’ father, who owned a luxury department store, with Allan clicking the shutter and Diane staging the models. Soon, the couple got assignments for Glamour and Vogue, where their work was published alongside that of Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Diane, though, was bored with fashion photography, and a course with Berenice Abbott inspired her interest in photography as an art. In 1953, with a Vogue press pass to photograph the circus, she became entranced by little people, who, writes the author, “were Diane’s introduction to the sideshow freaks whose portraits became her trademark.” “I do what gnaws at me,” she told her teacher Lisette Model. Those subjects ranged from “unsparing portraits of the rich” to “grim and tawdry” sex scenes. After her marriage ended, Arbus intensified her “compulsive fervor” for promiscuous sex, which likely caused hepatitis. Although a critical success, she doubted her talents; Lubow chronicles the deepening depressions that led to her suicide.

Despite limitations on research, Lubow sharply captures Arbus’ restlessness, pain, and artistic vision.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-223432-2

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016


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

Close Quickview