Memoirs by rock icons of the 1960s and ’70s are flying fast and furious these days. This is one of the best, lively and...

Understated but revealing memoir by the long-absent but still much-played pop star.

The daughter of a Simon & Schuster co-founder of demanding disposition (“my nose wasn’t the only way I disappointed him”), Simon grew up both privileged and beset by all manner of neuroses, traumas, and challenges. Not least of them, she would discover, were anxiety attacks and near-debilitating stage fright, which, in a particularly memorable moment here, an audience in Pittsburgh helps her work her way through: “Anyone who knew what a serious bundle of nerves I was should never have allowed me to leave home, much less perform,” she writes, good-natured as always. Another was a severe stutter that her boyfriend, the writer Nicholas Delbanco, would find charming but that led to her career as a singer, since she could sing her way through a sentence (or, in college, an Italian poem) unimpeded. Simon is perhaps best known for her tumultuous marriage to fellow singer James Taylor, and her account of their time together is both rueful and unsparing of either of them. “From the beginning,” she writes, “James and I were linked together as strongly as we were not just because of love, and music, but because we were both troubled people trying our best to pass as normal.” The best parts of the book are when the author describes how her songs came into being, while the few tedious ones are moments when names are dropped right and left: McCartney, Kristofferson, Nicholson, Dylan, Jagger. But, after all, she’s allowed: Dylan did adapt a song for her, and Jagger did help her sing through the song that began its life as “Ballad of a Vain Man,” wherein hangs a wonderful tale of “Narcissus and Goldmund desiring ourselves in each other.”

Memoirs by rock icons of the 1960s and ’70s are flying fast and furious these days. This is one of the best, lively and memorable. Check the new album that accompanies the book, too.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-09589-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2015


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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