Quinn—winner of the $500,000 Turner Tomorrow award for his novel Ishmael (1992)—tells the story of his psychological journey from a loveless childhood into '50s Catholicism and finally to his present creed of animism and self-discovery. Quinn tells us that, as a child in Omaha, Nebr., he was ignored by his mother, despised by his father, and loathed by his peers. He felt that he could win love and acceptance only by making himself perfect. He turned to Catholicism in his early teens, believing he could compel God to love him by excessive religiosity. He spent a few weeks at the famous Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. There he had a vision of the world ablaze with divine fire, but soon he was told by Thomas Merton, the novice master, that he needed to live life more before becoming a monk. Quinn relates how he then went into publishing, Freudian analysis, and two ill-starred marriages (jettisoning his Catholicism en route) before he ``joined the human race'' and realized that he was lovable just by being normal. Quinn devotes the last part of his book to a poorly thought through vision of human beings as part of the world—not dominating it—supporting this by a necessarily vague appeal to the countless centuries when humans were hunter- gatherers and invoking the unscientific term ``animism'' to denote his ideal of an imminent and possibly atheistic religion; yet he proclaims that ``looking at the universe, I find nothing in it that indicates the numinosity of the divine.'' Quinn takes himself very seriously as the author of Ishmael and is fond of quoting it. The bitterness of his attacks on education and religion as mere bundles of prohibitions that suppress spontaneity suggests that he is still reacting against his strong superego. Likely to interest only devotees of Ishmael.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-553-10018-1

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995


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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