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A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.

A vigorous exploration of the Space Age, a frontier oddly befitting Wild West historian Donovan (The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo—and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation, 2012, etc.).

The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Apollo 11 on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous “one small step” pronouncement. That history and the long chain of efforts leading up to the landing have been well-documented, not least by Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff. Even so, Dallas-based historian Donovan finds fresh things to say about the events—as when, for instance, he recounts Buzz Aldrin’s constant lobbying to be the first to set foot on the moon, a campaign that his peers found tedious but not entirely unseemly. That Armstrong was chosen to lead and then kept in that role, Donovan writes, strongly reflects a priority: “NASA wanted to make a clear statement about the non-military nature of the landing and of the American space program as a whole,” and Armstrong was both a civilian and senior in the hierarchy, making him a natural choice. Aldrin was privately devastated but put up a brave front. In Donovan’s hands, pioneering space scientist Wernher von Braun gets some deliverance from the Tom Lehrer school of lampoonery: True, he’d worked for the Nazis, but he also made remarks about the Hitler regime critical enough to be charged with treason, interrupting his perhaps unlikely playboy lifestyle. Just so, Donovan turns to small but meaningful episodes that speak volumes: NASA’s grudging addition of various lunar experiments “for the science guys”; Aldrin’s ministering of Communion by means of a tiny vial of sacramental wine that he smuggled aboard for the purpose; the fact that only by landing there could we be sure that “the moon’s color…was various shades of gray.” The author closes with the hopeful thought that after a long hiatus, we may soon be heading back into space.

A welcome addition to the literature of space exploration.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-34178-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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