An intelligent voice that spoke with grace, honesty, and humor.

Brief essays exploring universal themes—friendship, loneliness, and love—and observations on contemporary life, from Barbie dolls and Linda Tripp to computer solitaire.

These columns by the late Knapp, who wrote for Boston Phoenix, and other publications, span her career from the ’80s until her death in 2002, at age 42. Here, they’re grouped by theme into five parts: “Without,” on grief, loss, and sobriety; “With,” on friendship, family, and love; “Out There,” on the state of the world; “In Here,” on her inner world; and “The Merry Recluse,” on solitude, shyness, and loneliness. The title is taken from a piece on being single that Knapp wrote for Slate in 1998, but little merriment appears in the opening pieces. In these she deals with the deaths of her parents and her recovery from anorexia and alcoholism, subjects she explored in greater depth in Appetites (2003) and Drinking (1996). Knapp’s wit emerges in part two when she writes about her dog, Lucille, and engages in a debate with columnist Ron Rosenbaum on the relative value of dogs and cats. It blossoms in parts three and four, where she offers tart and original ideas on how corporate America could improve employee morale (e.g., on-site laundries) and how science could lighten the lot of females (e.g., the five-minute menstrual cycle), invents some new gods for the ’90s (e.g., Testicles—rhymes with Hercules—the god of male chauvinist pigs), and expands the concept of nicotine-patch technology to other human needs (e.g., a healing chicken-soup patch). Most memorable, however, are her forthright, unsentimental examinations of her life as a woman living alone and working alone that beautifully elucidate the pleasures of solitude and the pain of isolation.

An intelligent voice that spoke with grace, honesty, and humor.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58243-313-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004


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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