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A fine portrait of the artist as a young drudge.

Continuing the third-person narrative begun in Boyhood (1997), noted novelist Coetzee (Disgrace, 1999, etc.) pens another morose, yearning, revealing memoir.

The author begins with his late adolescence in South Africa during the 1950s, a time marked for him by confused and confusing sexual initiations, a bookish devotion to the writings of Ezra Pound and other literary modernists, and growing self-awareness. “Wrapped up though he is in his private worries,” Coetzee writes of his earlier self, “he cannot fail to see that the country around him is in turmoil.” When his mathematics tutorial is interrupted by armed policemen putting down a strike, the young man resolves to leave the country for England. Desperate for work, he takes a job as a computer programmer at IBM while devoting his free time to writing a master’s thesis on the novels of Ford Madox Ford. The setting has changed, but his life remains much the same: a sequence of furtive gropings, longings from afar, and gnawing dissatisfactions. “He has come to London to do what is impossible in South Africa: to explore the depths,” Coetzee writes. “Without descending into the depths one cannot be an artist. But what exactly are the depths? He had thought that trudging down icy streets, his heart numb with loneliness, was the depths. But perhaps the real depths are different, and come in unexpected form.” Coetzee labors on, misery piling on misery, until he finally has had enough and leaves his IBM post, much to the astonishment of the careerists and teacart ladies who are his daily companions. Free for only a few weeks of bohemian glory, he finds that in order to escape deportation he must find another job, and so he again takes work as a programmer. There we leave him, grim in the certainty that he will never escape the soul-deadening work of crunching numbers and riding suburban trains.

A fine portrait of the artist as a young drudge.

Pub Date: July 8, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03102-X

Page Count: 169

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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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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