Of interest to students of modernist art and of women’s history.

A scholarly study of two obscure Australian painters, and not (as the title promises) of a Russian composer’s diet.

Australian writer Modjeska (The Orchard, not reviewed) starts off with good intentions: to uncover the forgotten stories of Grace Cossington Smith (who lived an Emily Dickinson–like life of internal exile at her childhood home near Sydney) and Stella Bowen (who moved to Paris as a young woman and was the longtime mistress of English novelist Ford Madox Ford). Both were modernist painters who crafted substantial bodies of work, with Bowen painting impressionistic portraits of expatriate writers and the French countryside, and Smith turning out lapidary studies that recall both Whistler and Chagall. The author does a careful job of describing the painters’ lives and methods, but as she progresses she allows more and more of herself into their story, until Smith and Bowen seem in danger of becoming mere foils for what becomes a tiresome self-reference. “I am of a disposition,” Modjeska proclaims, “that understands all too well the struggle between the desire to give in to the narrative of love and the almost automatic habit of keeping on, of somehow managing. I know the insistence of work and the support that comes from one’s bruised and brilliant women friends.” That’s all to the good, but her subjects get lost in the glare of her reflections—all solid stuff for the postmodern set but not much fun for anyone else. Still, Modjeska capably defends her interest in Bowen and Smith not only as artists, but also as women who for the most part set their own terms in a time when few women could get away with that. And until the standard reference works catch up to them, her many illustrations will serve to acquaint readers with two artists who deserve attention.

Of interest to students of modernist art and of women’s history.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-27089-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2000


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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