Next book



Flannery O'Connor's best fiction seemed almost pre-grooved, as though she merely poured ink—and vividness—into grooves of mysterious life that were already whitely there. Being Southern, being Catholic, and being ill had a lot to do with that, and these hundreds of letters give O'Connor's tough, funny, careful personality to us more distinctly and movingly than any biography probably would. The idea of the spinster lady with lupus living cut off from the world in Milledgeville, Georgia, a primitive who raised peahens and a queer kind of ruckus—religious and weird—in her fiction, is dispelled. She was at home with the foremost literary figures of the day: Lowell, the Tates, Elizabeth Bishop, J. F. Powers, John Hawkes. She took no guff about finances connected with her work. She asked for criticism and accepted or discarded it according to its merits. She was conservative and anti-integrationist. Besieged by collegiate requests for clarifications of her work, she became weary, testy, revealing: "I have to sit down and write a graduate student in Cleveland who wants to know why my stories are grotesque; are they grotesque because I am showing the frustration of grace? It's very hard to tell these innocents that they are grotesque because that's the nature of my talent." Another side to her talent is an almost astonishing directness. In the letters, this is often found in humor, but the point is never lost. In a series of letters over ten years time to a woman identified as only "A.," O'Connor writes a kind of spiritual biography of a Catholic writer. "I am only interested in a fiction of miracles." She recalls a dinner where Mary McCarthy blathered on about the Host being a marvelous symbol, and prompted O'Connor's: "Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it." When A. leaves the Church, O'Connor mourns in her fashion, trying to convince her friend that if Jesus weren't God, she—O'Connor—would want to have nothing to do with him. Throughout, there are only the lightest, self-deprecating remarks about her debilitating, finally fatal illness: a refusal to let it slow her, and for every physical blow, her mind and outlook and literary assurance getting reactively tougher. Remarkable and inspiring.

Pub Date: March 16, 1979

ISBN: 0374521042

Page Count: 644

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1979

Next book


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

Next book



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

Close Quickview