THE LIFE OF WILLIAM FAULKNER

VOLUME 1, THE PAST IS NEVER DEAD, 1897-1934

A filling, satisfying feast for Faulkner aficionados.

A deeply detailed account of the 1949 Nobel laureate’s early life and work.

In this first of two projected volumes, Rollyson (Emeritus, Journalism and Creative Writing/Baruch Coll., CUNY; Understanding Susan Sontag, 2016, etc.) returns with a thick volume that accomplishes several objectives. It rehearses the details of Faulkner’s family history in Mississippi; examines many intriguing aspects of his early life (romances, drinking, difficulties making enough money, determination to write, public and private manner, friendships and professional associations); and assesses in great detail the major works he published during this time, The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, and Sanctuary among them. The author also deals frankly with some questions of Faulkner’s character, including his fabrications about his flying experiences (he underwent pilot training for World War I but did not go because the war ended before he could) and his evolving attitudes about race. Near the end of this volume, Rollyson examines Faulkner’s early experiences as a screenwriter in Hollywood, including analyses of the treatments and scripts he worked on—and how these would affect his subsequent fiction. Throughout, the author, an expert biographer, delivers arresting details and telling images from his subject’s life: Faulkner got a D in English at the University of Mississippi; he liked Charlie Chaplin movies and somewhat resembled the cinema star; As I Lay Dying appeared less than a year after he commenced writing it. Faulkner idolized Sherwood Anderson; though they became friends, their friendship eventually fractured. In Hollywood, Faulkner drank with Howard Hawks, and his literary friendships included Lillian Hellman (the subject of a previous Rollyson biography), Dashiell Hammett, and Nathanael West. The author’s underlying research is prodigious, and he does not hesitate to correct earlier biographers. General readers will find some of the book a bit daunting—especially the lengthy exegeses of literary works—but this is a top-notch biography nonetheless.

A filling, satisfying feast for Faulkner aficionados.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8139-4382-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Univ. of Virginia

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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