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Rivkin’s first book—impeccably researched, lavishly and lovingly written, insightful and discerning—is a joy to read.

A creative portal into the life of the enigmatic, reclusive, modernist painter.

It’s appropriate that a poet would write the first biography and comprehensive assessment of the paintings, sculptures, and photographs of Cy Twombly (1928-2011). His often massive art is as much lined poetry as it is scribbled, smudged paint, explosions of color, many marked with his unique chalk flourishes. “White paint,” Twombly said, “is my marble.” When young Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg were students at Black Mountain College in 1952, Charles Olson wrote to Robert Creeley admiringly about Rauschenberg’s very close friend and lover, the “clear genius of this lad.” Like Olson’s Call Me Ishmael (1947), Rivkin’s portrait of Twombly is meditative, personally reflective, and poetic. He’s traveled and done all the research, interviewed many key figures in Twombly’s life, and observed and felt the wonder of an “ecstatic” art he greatly admires. For Rivkin, “every painting [is] a self-portrait, not of the surface, the face in the mirror, but a reflection of that wilderness inside.” Twombly was a Southerner his whole life. He favored long-sleeve white shirts and suspenders. He was born in Lexington, Virginia, and his mother saw to it that he had a fine artistic education. As he traveled all over, he painted, always worried that his works weren’t selling. He married an Italian artist, Tatiana Franchetti, and they had a son, Alexander. In 1959, Twombly painted the massive “The Age of Alexander.” “Literary and historical and personal,” it is “both wild abandon and careful mark. A space that’s both, paradoxically, full and empty.” In 1964, he met Nicola Del Roscio, who would become his longtime companion and assistant. The author eagerly roams throughout the oeuvre, tracing Twombly’s growth as an artist, from the blackboard paintings, “minimal, ahistorical, singular,” to the “meditative and gracious” Green Paintings, and beyond.

Rivkin’s first book—impeccably researched, lavishly and lovingly written, insightful and discerning—is a joy to read.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61219-718-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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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

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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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