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An almost spectral text haunted by a past that never seems distant.

A revealing publication from the celebrated prose stylist.

In 1970, Didion (Blue Nights, 2011, etc.) took a sojourn in the Deep South, beginning in New Orleans and then heading to Mississippi and Alabama before returning to the Big Easy. (Also included are some pages about the author’s California homes in her youth.) Didion had intended to write a book about the South, but she just never got around to it. However, she retained her notes and observations, which compose this slender volume. Here are many of the splendid, sharp-eyed sentences for which she has long been admired. There are also brief notes, snippets of overheard conversations (in restaurants, on the street, in motels, libraries, around motel swimming pools), and sights along the road, viewed from her rental car. Didion writes about snakes, heat, sports, racial issues, and a strange coolness she experienced from many of the locals. In Oxford, she mentions that she could not find William Faulkner’s grave, which is hard to miss these days. She also bemoans the lack of bookstores in town, hardly a problem now. But what will strike readers is—as Didion declares—her inability to “get into it”—to interview the people she ought to (some avoided her) and to venture more deeply into the Southern heart. She does chronicle her interviews with some locals and others, including a visit with Walker Percy (for which readers will certainly yearn for more details). Didion also confesses that she was ready—just about at any time—to hop on a plane for home. But some of her observations are classics: a man with a shotgun shooting pigeons on a street in a Mississippi town; a comment about the fierce heat: “all movement seemed liquid.”

An almost spectral text haunted by a past that never seems distant.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3279-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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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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