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For fans.

Literary odds and ends from the controversial French writer.

This brief collection of eight essays by Genet (1910-1986) were written from 1949 to 1958. All are deeply infused with his sexuality, philosophy, and bizarre, metaphysical writing style. In a footnote to one of them, he writes, “with my cold chisel, words, detached from language, neat blocks, are also tombs.” The titular essay, from 1948, was originally written for radio broadcast but was never recorded. Genet was then facing a prison term, and the station wanted to avoid a scandal that his “deliberately provocative rhetoric” would have caused. Drawing on his experiences as a criminal child incarcerated in Mettray, a correctional facility, Genet proclaims his “love for these ruthless little kids” and his disdain for the society that punishes them: “I want to insult yet again the insulters.” “Adame Miroir” is a short, surrealist ballet/screenplay “for the Grand-Guignol.” In “Letter to Lenor Fini,” Genet writes to a female painter with whom he worked. In a style exuberant in image and metaphor, he describes works “voluptuous and sprinkled with arsenic.” They “seem to me comparable to the complex architecture of swamp odors.” And that is a compliment! An admiring piece on Jean Cocteau praises the “goodness” of his heart. His work “lets anguish be discovered in the fissures.” A lengthy, dazzling piece on Alberto Giacometti, which is part interview and part critique, reads like a magazine profile. In his work, Genet sees “sculptures standing up in their bones” with a “strange power to penetrate that realm of death.” The final piece, sensitive and erotic, is “The Tightrope Walker,” about Abdallah Bentaga, whom Genet was emotionally attached to. The author waxes lovingly euphoric about the performer’s artistry on the wire and the “bulge accentuated in your bodysuit, where your balls are enclosed.” An introduction with biographical and historical contexts would have been helpful.

For fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68137-361-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: New York Review Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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