WHEN I LEFT HOME

MY STORY

Tasty as a Buddy Guy guitar lick, but seldom revelatory.

One of the last survivors of Chicago blues’ golden age of the 1950s and ’60s, Guy retravels a familiar route in this ingratiating but disappointingly slim as-told-to autobiography.

The son of rural sharecroppers, he became fixated with playing the guitar after hearing John Lee Hooker’s 1949 hit “Boogie Chillen.” He caught firsthand glimpses of such Louisiana stars as Lightnin’ Slim and Guitar Slim, the latter of whom supplied the blueprint for Guy’s flamboyant performing style. He lyrically recalls his 1957 train trip to Chicago, a Mecca for émigré musicians from the South. After an arduous period, he began to burn up the South Side’s bars; his local stardom led to record dates at Chess Records, then home to blues giants like Muddy Waters, who encouraged him in his early days, and the forbidding Howlin’ Wolf, who wanted to hire him. (Wary of Wolf’s harsh treatment of his sidemen, he declined.) Work ultimately became so scarce that Guy drove a tow truck to make ends meet, but he finally found success in the ’60s on the European festival scene and then in the rock ballrooms. Guy has a wealth of entertaining, occasionally raunchy stories about the contemporaries he revered, including Muddy, Wolf, Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Big Mama Thornton and B.B King. Sometimes he takes a jab: Songwriter Willie Dixon was stingy about sharing credit, guitarist Albert King was a tightwad, label owner Leonard Chess never paid royalties or recorded him at his extroverted best. He has fonder memories of the young white performers—especially Brits like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and the Rolling Stones—who helped shine a spotlight on his work. He saves his best stuff for longtime musical partner Junior Wells, the pugnacious, oft-incarcerated harmonica ace. At most junctures, the material about Guy’s fellow bluesmen is so choice it pushes the book’s purported subject into the background. And there’s little about the major renewal of Guy’s career after the 1991 release of his Grammy-winning Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues.

Tasty as a Buddy Guy guitar lick, but seldom revelatory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-306-81957-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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