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Intellectually stimulating but self-aggrandizing—a portrait of the artist in portraits of other artists.

An experimental memoir told in a series of biographical sketches of the author’s friends and colleagues.

In his latest book, Meyers (Robert Lowell in Love, 2016, etc.) attempts to revive appreciation for 14 underrecognized writers, artists, and scholars. Composed of short profiles on authors like Phillip Knightley and Paul Theroux, the book provides an insider’s view of their personal and professional lives. Drawn from “learned gatherings” and the author’s lengthy correspondence with his subjects, the narrative consists of intriguing, brief portraits, rendering each into “a colorful legend among the colorless academic drudges” (about critic Donald Greene). In the first section, Meyers focuses on his personal acquaintances, and the second features essays on five inspirational men he wishes he could have met—e.g., scholar and Russian spy Anthony Blunt. Meyers appears prominently throughout his book; while the texts are meant to honor these artists and exalt their histories and bibliographies, they transform into recurring reflections of Meyers and what his subjects think of him. It’s a brilliant way for a biographer to finally write about himself, although the author frequently revels in his own praise. The all-male focus feels old-fashioned, as does the author’s “interest in masculine writers” and love of gossip (many profiles recount affairs and other sordid morsels). Meyers is frequently “eager to win his [subject’s] respect,” and he seeks relationships based on a mutual intellectual appreciation. He mentions his search for an “ideal father figure” throughout the book, but he rarely moves past his own reflection. On Hugh Gordon Porteus, Meyers explains Porteus “was delighted to be rediscovered by me.” Later, the author recounts his “treasured” friendship with James Salter through dinner-party anecdotes and snippets of their storied intellectual discourse. He circles around self-affirming details like how “Jim inscribed twenty-six various editions of his books for [him]” and even shares “the three best” dedications (inscribed in Salter’s A Sport and a Pastime: “To Jeffrey. Represents, I think, the apogee”).

Intellectually stimulating but self-aggrandizing—a portrait of the artist in portraits of other artists.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8139-4168-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Univ. of Virginia

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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