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Some of White’s observations on rape, feminism and promiscuity continue to shock, but the writer refuses to sentimentalize...

A memoir that engages on a number of levels, as a pivotal literary figure recounts his productive Parisian years.

When White (Jack Holmes and His Friend, 2012, etc.) began his 16-year Parisian residence in 1983, he was flush from the success of both his breakthrough novel, A Boy’s Own Story (1982), and a Guggenheim fellowship, and he was well on his way to establishing himself as the pre-eminent gay American writer of the era. “A Boy’s Own Story was presented to the world as a novel rather than as a memoir, but not out of a sense of discretion or modesty,” he writes. “It was just that back then only people who were already famous wrote their memoirs.” He continued to publish autobiographical novels but extended his literary reach to encompass biography and memoir (this is his third). The anecdotes and observations of the writer as social butterfly sustain plenty of interest, whether he’s overhearing Tina Turner tell Julian Barnes how much she loves his novels or describing being in the “historic, if tedious, company” of heiress and art patron Peggy Guggenheim. Some revelations are considerably more shocking, such as the story about the French actor and American writer who had sex “in an oven at Dachau while they were both tripping.” However, the broader cultural context elevates the memoir above gossip, as he writes of the onslaught of AIDS, then considered an American curiosity from which one could find refuge in Europe, and of the different attitudes and temperaments of the French, British and Americans. He ruminates on growing older and corpulent in a culture that prizes fitness and youth and of losing so many lovers and others to the scourge of AIDS. He also writes of his development as a literary stylist, one who “became simpler and more direct because of living in two languages.”

Some of White’s observations on rape, feminism and promiscuity continue to shock, but the writer refuses to sentimentalize or pull punches, even (or especially) when the subject is himself.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-582-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2013

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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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