Amusing but punch-less.

A raucous memoir of odd jobs and unhappiness by an author who is more drifter than working stiff.

Willing to up-end his life for a shot at earning a few bucks, Levison finds himself by turns a trucker trainee, a fish cutter, an oil deliveryman, and a film-set gopher. He encounters each job at once dutifully and passively, accepting the need for work and working willingly enough, yet never staying with anything beyond three months. This, Levison claims, is a result of having majored in English, which has no practical application. Thus every job is either one he “can’t get” or “doesn’t want”; rather than stay with one thing he doesn’t like, Levison varies the experience. When a job at a high-end food market grows old, he pirates cable professionally. Later, he works for weeks packing crabmeat on a rusty Alaskan tanker. Like David Sedaris in Naked, Levison is able to show each job as both funny and pathetic. Perhaps the best moment comes when he bungles a delivery of home-heating oil. Holding instructions that read “Fill at the donkey’s nose,” he assumes that a statue of a donkey in the front yard is, in fact, the receptacle and stuffs the oil gun up one of its nostrils. The donkey explodes from pressure. He later finds the intended oil tank beside the donkey and realizes, as he explains to his boss, that “fill” is a noun as well as a verb. Unlike Sedaris, however, Levison offers the reader no narrative arc. In addition, “manifesto” is a misnomer for something that asserts no beliefs and recommends no course of action. Levison is a nihilist who can only complain. Though he has yet to find a job he likes, he is accepting of careerists, seems to support capitalism, and other than wishing he hadn’t wasted his money on college, harbors few regrets.

Amusing but punch-less.

Pub Date: April 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-56947-280-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002


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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