A literary delicacy with more takeaways than one can count.

The celebrated author takes us through the many shades of literature.

“Reading is at once a lonely and an intensely social act,” writes White (Creative Writing/Princeton Univ.; Our Young Man, 2016, etc.) at the beginning of his latest work of nonfiction. “The writer becomes your ideal companion—interesting, worldly, compassionate, energetic—but only if you stick with him or her for a while, long enough to throw off the chill of isolation and to hear the intelligent voice murmuring in your ear.” Here, the author intimately whispers the literary twists and turns that have shaped his life into his attentive readers’ ears. In exploring the books that have defined both his adolescence and adulthood, White dives into the various states of mind that acted as geneses for many of his novels and that elicited significant instances of self-realization. “When we’re young and impressionable, we’re led to embrace the books our first lovers love,” he writes. Though there was only one first love, his college peer Charles Burch, White had many other loves that helped develop his literary persona. This is the central premise of the book. What lies at the junction of love, literature, and writing? What stories define us, and how do we define stories? Taking his readers from Alexander Trocchi to Joyce Carol Oates to Roland Barthes to Leo Tolstoy, White’s repertoire is impressive; refreshingly, it’s never pretentious. White’s prose oozes mysticism and melancholy, the kind of melancholy that makes readers sigh with wonder and hope. “We like writers who can see the world around them,” he writes, “who don’t attribute impossible motives or responses to their characters, who can keep a balance between action and introspection, whose style is relaxed and flowing and conversational.” Throughout, White’s reflections are just as lucid as they are fascinating and just as compelling as they are bountiful.

A literary delicacy with more takeaways than one can count.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63557-117-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018


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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