The book idles way too long, but once it takes off, it’s a sweet and funny ride.

Face it: Wouldn’t you rather strike out on the road with John Waters than Jack Kerouac?

If the answer is yes, then this book is for you, even if Waters (Role Models, 2011, etc.), the ever-flamboyant auteur-(Pink FlamingosHairspray et al) turned-writer, takes his sweet time getting going. For more than half of this account of his 2012 cross-country journey hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco, the author imagines what lies in store, with dueling full-length novellas that spin best and worst case scenarios. Best: a never-ending thrill ride full of rich potheads, happy freaks and horny hunks, all of whom know and love his work. Worst: The trip west is seething with small-town homophobes, stage moms, crazed environmentalists and serial killers. The real story, once it arrives, is a welcome relief, as the truth is more hilarious and interesting than Waters’ nuttiest fantasies. He dealt with troubles he didn’t expect, like tedium or the art of making a marketable cardboard sign. (He eventually ditched his original sign, “I’m Not Psycho,” wisely realizing that “hitchhiking is not the time to be a comedian.”) Waters hitched rides with a preacher’s wife, a hay farmer and an indie band, and he struck up a budding bromance with a straight, young Maryland Republican city councilman. The author was grateful that, even in the hinterlands, C-list celebrity status could be a real asset and was even more touched by the kindness of people who didn't know him at all. Some—who apparently didn’t notice his BlackBerry, tracking device or designer sports jacket—even offered money, which he gently refused (“Yeah sure, I see her thinking, here’s a homeless person off his meds”).

The book idles way too long, but once it takes off, it’s a sweet and funny ride.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-29863-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014


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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