A measured, careful examination of the celebrated illustrator’s life and art, both fused in the crucible of his family. All families have their nuclear myths and secrets, but few have as many as the famous Wyeths. Michaelis (The Best of Friends, 1983) explores the effects of those kept secrets as they traveled down through generations, influencing first parent, then child. Although this volume functions as a biography of the famous man who illustrated Robinson Crusoe and The Last of the Mohicans, it also doubles as a case study of the intimate link between the artist and his mother—a domineering, depressed, emotionally volatile woman. Henriette (Hattie) Wyeth so idealized the past’she refused to leave her childhood home—that she cultivated a perpetual state of emotional loss. As her favorite son, Convers (N.C.) shared her sentiment, her —homesickness.— But in later years, that melancholy sometimes expressed itself as a lingering sense of failure. Yet N.C. was a prodigious illustrator, a recorder of the West at a time when the country hungered for images of vastness and freedom. In his pursuit of powerful imagery, the young artist worked a cattle roundup in eastern Colorado with a group of men known as the Hash Knife outfit and completed a series of paintings that cinched his career as an illustrator. And yet he longed to be thought of as a real artist, to paint —the big picture.— It never came. Michaelis charts his professional rise and personal crises with much detailed attention, but somehow Wyeth never comes to life. Stripped of his myth, the artist becomes a curiously banal figure, a mama’s boy who sacrificed much of his independence for familial approval and financial gain. Michaelis leaves no Wyeth neurosis unexplored, but his deliberate analysis—while infusing the text with a necessary skepticism’strips it of vitality. (32 pages color, 94 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-42626-4

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1998


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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