ROLE MODELS

An impressive, heartfelt collection by a true American iconoclast.

The famed cult-film director recalls the famous—and not-so-famous—people he has idolized over the years.

Waters is known for his campy, often hilarious films, including Pink Flamingos (1972) and the mainstream hit Hairspray (1988). In this consistently charming and witty collection of essays, he fondly remembers the many artists he has admired throughout his life, from stars, such as Little Richard, to such near-unknown figures as the 1960s Baltimore stripper Lady Zorro. Though Waters jumps from subject to subject, he somehow integrates it all into a coherent whole. The chapter “Johnny and Me” combines the author’s interviews with legendary singer Johnny Mathis and the obscure actress Patty McCormack, who played an evil little girl in the 1954 movie The Bad Seed, as well as encomiums to the actress Margaret Hamilton and Bobby “Boris” Pickett, singer of the 1962 novelty hit “The Monster Mash.” Elsewhere, the author interviews two of his favorite underground gay pornographers in similarly rapturous terms. In general, Waters admires anyone who has the courage to follow his or her idiosyncratic muse, and he makes no distinction between so-called “high” and “low” art. The author is at his most engaging when he expresses disillusionment. For example, he counts a former member of the Manson Family, Leslie Van Houten, among his friends, and believes that she has reformed in prison—but he also expresses regret that he exploited the Manson murders for kitsch value in his early films. Waters also presents a poignant interview with Lady Zorro’s daughter, during which he learns that the outrageous personality he admired so much was actually masking a selfish, irresponsible alcoholic. The only misfire is a short, somewhat vague appreciation of Tennessee Williams, which lacks the zing of the rest of the portraits. Overall, however, Waters delivers a worthy tribute to his personal pantheon of artistic icons.

An impressive, heartfelt collection by a true American iconoclast.

Pub Date: June 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-374-25147-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2010

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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