Down for the count in his prime, now back on tour minus most of his small intestine and much of his body weight, a remarkably centered rock singer/songwriter chronicles his affliction with restraint and wry pluck in unbuttoned, conversational British. After months in the hospital, the ultimate diagnosis—of an extremely rare autoimmune syndrome that ravages blood vessels and leads to critical organ damage—matters less than Watt's experience of the ordeal and its strength-conferring lesson: ``I felt I had the scoop on life and death and everyone else was still running around after it.'' Pain was unremitting—from the disease, the tests, the surgeries, the treatments and inevitable side effects, the lines and the tubes and the needles that antagonized his sluggish veins. Pleasure was the luxury of a piss without the catheter, the tremendous contentment of a shower. Watt observed his acculturation to hospitalism: One day while vomiting radioactive orange juice after a scan, ``the invisible thread that had been tying me to home . . . had slackened. I became interested only in making things bearable for the next twenty minutes''; and elsewhere, with typical compression, ``weather is for other people.'' When there was room in the isolation of Watt's crucible, Tracey—the female half of his band and his household—faithfully anchored him. Watt emerged from the worst of his affliction with a more resonant singing voice, a new face in the mirror (which he regarded respectfully, ``impressed by the patience I saw there''), and a drastically foreshortened gut still prone to ``lock up'' every few weeks despite his adherence to a bizarre diet enhanced by steroids and immunosuppressants. In conclusion, ``It doesn't do to dwell on my bad luck . . . but it takes time to round it into the good times.'' Time plus the wisdom acquired in extremis and leavened by native aplomb. In both its graphic and reflective modes, this is resilient, just-so reporting. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8021-1612-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997


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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