Composing in a minor key, one of our great literary and cultural critics reflects on his life and the themes that have aroused his passion. Steiner has published 12 or so remarkable books of criticism, depending on how you count them, and sundry other volumes of fiction and essays. As a senior book reviewer at the New Yorker, he did much to call attention to books that might otherwise have slipped by unnoticed. Lately, he has taken a chair in comparative literature at Oxford, the first ever. Not a bad track record, by any standard. Alas, Mr. Steiner is not satisfied, for no Steinerian school of thought has sprung from his brow. Despite undertones of self-pity and outlandish self-regard, Steiner once again offers a beautifully written and intensely stimulating book. This one is a retrospective of the main influences on and themes of his career: the relationship of high culture to cruelty in the 20th century; the superior authenticity of diaspora Judaism vis-Ö-vis Israel; the undefinable link between language and music; the sheer miracle of language itself; the modern retreat from the word; and the meaning of God for the modern mind. Steiner explores these themes anew from a biographical point of view, explaining how he came to them and what they have meant to him. Oddly, Steiner's tone is elegiac, for he thinks his work has been underrated and occasionally plagiarized. At the same time, he is proud to be an outsider to recent decades of literary criticism. Justifiably sohe really is an extraterritorial critic, belonging to the tradition of exceptional figures such as Walter Benjamin and Karl Kraus. This new book amply rewards both casual readers and specialists. Steiner's work is a tribute to a single-minded originality that has been successful against the odds. He is inimitable; a Steiner school of criticism is a contradiction in terms.

Pub Date: March 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-300-07503-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1998


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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