From the master of the absurdist novel, an ordinary tale of moviemaking. Many of John Irving’s novels have been made into motion picture features over the years, including The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, and A Prayer for Owen Meany (which Hollywood retitled Simon Birch). He wrote screenplays for two of his works, Setting Free the Bears and A Son of the Circus, but never got them as far as the screen. Now he focuses on the making of The Cider House Rules in exhaustive and excruciating detail. The film, starring Michael Caine and Tobey Maguire, will be released in conjunction with the book—or rather, the book will be released in conjunction with the film, since the film is likely the bigger money-making prospect. And so, on the evidence here, it should be. Irving mentions in passing that he was once told that a novel should be larger—more complex and more interesting—than a newspaper story about real life. So too, he might have reasoned, should a memoir move beyond a mere recounting of what happened to a particular person at a particular time. But Irving gets so lost in telling stories of every change he made in every draft, of characters lost, of scenes deleted, of motivations corrupted, that he never gets around to telling a story of his own. It is as if he had made a deal when The Cider House Rules went into production that if he were upset about any compromises, he could write a book of his own detailing everything that was left out. The obvious problem here is that he already did so: Anyone who wants to know his original intentions can read his novel. A secondary problem is that the catalogue of details will make little sense to those who have not both read the book and seen the film. If Irving had treated this subject as fiction, it would have been a much more grippingly incredible story.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-50368-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999


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



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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