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Sporadically engaging biography of Richard Harding Davis (1864-1916), the once-celebrated journalist who, among other accomplishments, reported on nearly every international conflict from the 1897 Cuban Revolution to WW I, posed for the male counterpart of the Gibson girl, and introduced the avocado to American dining tables. The eldest child of a newspaperman and a novelist remarkable only for the mawkishness of her literary romances and for her limpet-like attachment to her firstborn, Davis, explains Lubow, came to his writing career quite predictably. When barely out of his teens, the immensely gregarious Davis was already turning out society columns, special reports, and short stories for Charles Scribner and William Randolph Hearst. In addition, he counted Stanford White, Charles Dana Gibson, Ethel Barrymore, and Stephen Crane among his somewhat raffish circle of friends and associates. Interestingly, Davis himself, Lubow notes, was deeply priggish, a legacy of his repressively ``proper'' upbringing. He was also sexually unadventurous and didn't marry until his late 30s, when he formed an alliance with a much younger, ``liberated'' woman. Later divorced, he remarried and fathered a daughter. Harding evidently was a complex figure, but Lubow (a contributing editor to Vanity Fair) fails to plumb the societal implications of his life. A closer examination of the reasons for the championing by contemporary feminists of marriages—like Harding's first—in which spouses were more friends than lovers would have added depth to the portrait, for example. Lubow is more successful in comparing Davis's literary methods and objectives in his several successful novels to those of Stephen Crane. Both writers dealt with life among slum dwellers, Lubow points out; Crane, however, depicted his characters in starkly realistic terms, hoping to underline the need for reform, while Davis sketched his dramatis personae as lovable caricatures, thus reassuring his middle-class audience. Competently organized and smoothly written but lacking significant insights into a potentially intriguing protagonist. (Two eight-page photo inserts—not seen.)

Pub Date: July 20, 1992

ISBN: 0-684-19404-X

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1992

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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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