FIVE CHIEFS

A SUPREME COURT MEMOIR

Though well-documented and richly detailed, this book is unlikely to captivate readers who do not have a special interest in...

An informative and intermittently engaging account of Justice Stevens' tenure on the Supreme Court.

Stevens, who joined the Court in 1975 and retired in 2010, at the age of 90, was the third-longest-serving justice in the Court's history and its oldest member at the time of his retirement. He served under five Chief Justices, beginning with Fred Vinson and ending with John Roberts Jr.; the book is divided into sections that detail his recollections of the Court under each Chief. For the most part neatly structured and concise, the book's clarity is occasionally compromised by gratuitous legalese. It's not always clear how or why he has chosen to share a certain memory or observation or describe the ruling in a particular case. At times he veers into meandering personal anecdote, waxing rhapsodic about the warm handshakes he shared with his fellow justices, their morning coffee breaks, lavish holiday parties and “Nino” Scalia's “wonderfully spontaneous sense of humor.” It is touchingly clear that Stevens loved his time as a member of the Court, but only the most dedicated Supreme Court aficionado is likely to care about the metal spittoons next to each justice's chair or the toggle switch they use to turn on their microphones. Stevens' memory is sharp, his tone is affable and his storytelling has charming folksy quality, but as a whole this memoir is reminiscent of an exceptionally long-winded speech given by the guest of honor at a retirement party.

Though well-documented and richly detailed, this book is unlikely to captivate readers who do not have a special interest in the Supreme Court.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-316-19980-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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