A quick, humorous memoir about storytelling, on and off the stage.

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Black (The Magic of Theater, 1993, etc.), in his new memoir, offers a colorful account of his life in the Broadway theater.

People in show business always seem to have the best stories. Maybe it’s the strength of their personalities or the heightened cultural setting or the chance that someone famous might pop up at any time. All these things are true in Black’s memoir, which gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at the Great White Way (with requisite appearances by celebrities big and small), as well as an examination of the complicated life of a theater professional. Black details his childhood as the son of an influential atheistic minister, his marriage into the upper crust of Boston society, his time as an opera singer in Europe, and his long career in the fast and fickle world of Broadway. The most interesting sections detail his work in the 1960s, producing shows such as the musical George M!, a revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and most surprisingly, Richard Nixon’s 1969 Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C. Just as engaging, though, are his relationships with his family and his lovers, and his personal trials define him even more than the professional ones. At just over 150 pages, it’s a short volume, as Black is no completist when it comes to his own memory; he provides only the moments he wishes to discuss. He writes in a highly anecdotal style, one story following the next, yet the memoir somehow manages to avoid feeling digressive or directionless. Instead, his life unfolds in brief but meticulous fables that, together, present a quirky but comprehensive biography. Some stories are poignant, but most are simply funny, and Black’s wonderfully dry humor and inclination toward self-deprecation truly carry readers through the book. Overall, he seems to have enough respect for life and art to know not to take either too seriously. In theater, there are tragedies and there are comedies; Black has thankfully interpreted his life as the latter.

A quick, humorous memoir about storytelling, on and off the stage.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-1631923258

Page Count: 157

Publisher: Mezzo Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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