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WHAT MAGAZINES TAUGHT ME ABOUT LOVE, SEX, AND STARTING OVER

An undeniably gimmicky premise, but executed with enough humor, heart and authenticity to charm even the most skeptical...

“Is it so wrong to want to be bossed around by Helen Gurley Brown?” asks freelance writer Alter (Virgin Territory: Stories from the Road to Womanhood, 2004), who decided that for one year she would follow without question the advice she found in nine women’s magazines.

She was prompted by her reckless behavior in the wake of a divorce. The 37-year-old author was drinking and smoking heavily, splurging on $800 custom-made cowboy boots, bored to tears with her dead-end job at a D.C. legal-publishing firm and having midday sex in her cubicle with a co-worker she didn’t even really like. “Unable to stop the feeding frenzy of poor decisions” on her own, she turned to Cosmopolitan, O, InStyle, Real Simple and others of their ilk. Her experiment began timidly but not without bravado as she methodically tackled such personal issues as beauty, diet, spirit and relationships. Among the interesting cast of real-life characters were Alter’s shrink, Dr. Oskar, who had an unnerving habit of crying right alongside her in sessions; her best friend Jeanne, who loved her enough to tell her, “I don’t think I can be around you any longer”; and handsome Karl, whose overbearing Chinese mother deftly handed out guilt trips and stern advice in equal parts. As the author discovered that she wanted to incorporate Karl into her life for more than just one issue, a slow and powerful metamorphosis took place. Soon Alter began to battle her various neuroses, piecing together a new self image through small acts like learning how to properly wrap a sandwich in Saran wrap and discovering what language is best used to encourage a man to open up. “Anything can change a life that is ready to be changed,” she discovered, and readers will thank the author for providing motivation to make changes of their own.

An undeniably gimmicky premise, but executed with enough humor, heart and authenticity to charm even the most skeptical reader.

Pub Date: July 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7432-8840-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2008

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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