A full dish of humor garnished with ample trimmings of self-examination.

Foreign correspondent Bruni (Ambling Into History: The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush, 2002, etc.) faces a menu of challenges after taking a coveted job as the New York Times restaurant critic.

Growing up eating the lavish meals cooked by his Italian mother, it was apparent early on that Bruni would be forever consumed by food. But the author didn't just love to eat; he was obsessed with it, tossing down triple helpings and throwing tantrums when his mother refused further offerings. “I had been a plump infant and was on my way to becoming an even plumper child,” he writes, “a ravenous machine determined to devour anything in its sights.” Self-conscious about his expanding midriff, the soon-to-be journalist's disorder manifested into bulimia by college in an on-again/off-again battle that would stay with him through his tenure as a Times White House correspondent and later during a post in Italy. When he received the offer to sacrifice his European spot to become the Times’ restaurant critic, Bruni was torn. Living in Italy was a lifelong dream fulfilled. More importantly, with his history of eating problems, could he maintain the healthy waistline he'd finally achieved when faced with plate after plate of New York’s finest cuisine? “This decision is insane,” he writes. “But it was also irresistible, even poetic, the kind of ultimate dare or dead reckoning that a good narrative called for.” Taking the job, Bruni eased into the critic game like a pro, masking his identity from keen restaurateurs whose staffs were on constant alert. Keeping a constant eye on the scale, he often donned hilarious disguises to outfox his subject’s purveyors, and hit the treadmill and Pilates classes to outrun his caloric demons.

A full dish of humor garnished with ample trimmings of self-examination.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59420-231-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009


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

Close Quickview