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An accessible and enlightening biography.

An examination of Rudyard Kipling’s life and work through the lens of the years he spent living in the United States.

Many scholars regard the once-popular writer as little more than the “jingoist Bard of Empire.” In this book, Benfey (English/Mount Holyoke Coll.; Red Brick, Black Mountain, White Clay: Reflections on Art, Family, and Survival, 2012, etc.) discusses Kipling's little-discussed but highly productive “Vermont decade” to suggest that he became “the writer we know…because of his deep involvement with the United States.” Benfey begins in 1889, the year Kipling traveled from Bombay to London via a route that took him east through the U.S., where he began a friendship with Mark Twain and visited the homes of other American literary idols including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. When he arrived in London in 1890, he met an American, whom he married in 1892. On a whim, the pair bought land in Vermont while on their honeymoon. But after Kipling’s savings were unexpectedly wiped out by a financial panic, they returned to New England to settle. There, Kipling, determined to become an American writer, conceived or wrote some of his greatest works: Kim, a book that would later become a must-read for CIA operatives; Captain’s Courageous, which he called his “first genuine out and out American story"; and the The Jungle Book, a novel Benfey argues arose in part as Kipling’s response to Vermont surroundings that made him feel he was “living in a lawless jungle.” On a visit to Washington, D.C., the writer met the imperialist war hawk and rising political star Theodore Roosevelt, whom he befriended. Kipling hated the “saber-rattling” he observed among American politicians, but he also believed—as he would suggest in his poem “The White Man’s Burden”—that the U.S. needed to “assume its share of the responsibilities of empire.” Intelligent and well-researched, Benfey’s book accomplishes a delicate feat by highlighting the complexity of Kipling’s life and work without seeking to minimize his colonialist, racist views.

An accessible and enlightening biography.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2143-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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

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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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