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College humor is supposed to be a little lowbrow, but Kester is stuck in a mode of repetitive and ultimately tiring gags.

In which the author copes with attending the world’s most demanding institution of higher learning by reducing it to middle-school jokes.

Like many freshmen at Harvard, Kester suffered a rude awakening during his first weeks on campus: The smartest kid in his hometown had quickly morphed into, at best, a mediocrity. Academically he couldn’t crack calculus, and he was performing poorly everywhere else too: He locked himself out of his dorm room on move-in day, wearing only his boxers; he rode the bench on the football team; he felt alienated from the sons of old-money Brahmins at the campus’ final clubs. Such modest suffering shouldn’t merit a full-length memoir, a shortcoming Kester attempts to resolve by couching every modest indignity in lowbrow humor. If the book’s cast of characters aren’t actually invented, they certainly adhere to college-comedy stereotypes: the hotheaded football coach, the nerdy math whiz who uses hip-hop slang to boast about his nonexistent sexual prowess, the wacky roommate and the out-of-touch college president. The book’s driving force is the most clichéd stereotype of all: the gorgeous, unattainable co-ed. Much of the first half of the book follows Kester’s mooning over this “smokeshow” from a distance, his attempts to catch her attention derailed by some embarrassment or other. The author alternates anecdotes about the downsides of Harvard life (Adderall popping, cheating, constant insecurity) with tales of hijinks. But his comfort zone is cheeseball shtick, from mocking foreign accents to bathroom humor—which makes the final pages’ platitudes about growing maturity and respect for diversity ring all the more hollow.

College humor is supposed to be a little lowbrow, but Kester is stuck in a mode of repetitive and ultimately tiring gags.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4022-6750-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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