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HILL OF BEANS

COMING OF AGE IN THE LAST DAYS OF THE OLD SOUTH

A finely detailed tableau of the lost Carolinas and a book for the boy in all of us.

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Turgenev meets Mark Twain in these lyrical, acutely observed recollections wherein the author narrates his Carolina past, unearthing mountains of memories and ties that bind.

  Snyder is a crack observer, and this debut memoir is at once a reverie of rural life, an ode to men’s crafts and boyhood’s treasures, and a cool refraction of the full-blooded Carolinians who hunted, fished and farmed their patch under the final sunset of the Old South. Snyder spent his early years in the cabin his father built on Cedar Mountain, N.C., where quail roamed and trout peppered the streams. In 1939, his father built a resort inn that bustled for one glorious summer then fell to an arsonist’s match. John and a brother were soon sent to live with two maiden aunts in Greenville, S.C., for school but learned more about needlepoint, roosters and bigotry. When the family purchased a sharecropper farm in Walhalla, S.C., in 1943, adventures in hoeing and animals began in earnest. John’s father, Ted, was a man for all seasons, adept with a poem as well as a gun and a saw, and the narrative sparkles with his vernacular—the winsomely meaningless “consnoggerating” is a term only a 1940s father could invent. Young John tried to live up to his father’s polymathic example with tools and inventions of his own, while simultaneously adoring a succession of lovely teachers and studying his world with a fine boy’s eye. The result is this book of miniatures, crafted with care and delivered with candor and heart. Each set piece—a burgling collie, a woman who lost her face to the wind, a most unfortunately ill-timed bowel movement—lends gravitas to the author’s spectacle of family and humanity below the Mason-Dixon Line. Snyder is hardly the first Southerner to have wondered aloud: Who are my people? But his answer is rich and original. Or as his father might have said—big as the moon and deft as a cat.  

A finely detailed tableau of the lost Carolinas and a book for the boy in all of us.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0983062202

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Smith/Kerr Associates

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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