A thoughtful, odd, amusing (albeit occasionally precious) fusion of memoir, career guide, and anarchist screed with built-in...

A snarky idealist’s journey to maturity through pet care.

In his debut, Stephens fuses urban history, social theory, and personal narrative with a wry overview of the ubiquitous phenomenon of dog-walking. He argues that dog walkers represent “features of urban (and, more and more, suburban) life. Conspicuous consumption. The quaint priorities of aging Gen-Xers who have begun to hire millenials.” Stephens seems an appropriate ambassador for this archetypical slacker’s profession: a hyperrebellious Navy brat, he became a self-identified anarchist during the first Iraq war, questioning dominant narratives and enjoying shock appeal, qualities which inform the prose here. Stephens transitioned naturally into the profession following a string of radical adventures, including time with the Zapatistas in Mexico and a protest-related federal conviction. “My life,” he writes, “was a headlong dive into coupling moral outrage with punk rock irreverence.” Having moved to Washington, D.C., for its leftist punk scene (Stephens acutely portrays the city’s social striations), he found himself traipsing through the homes of governmental officials and other high achievers, spending time with their pampered pooches. The book is casually structured, with some chapters tying in the ideas of radical theorists and others providing irreverent looks at the trade, ranging from the pet care industry’s shady finances and hiring practices to the messy realities of time spent with dogs. “Yes,” he writes. “Dog walkers deal with shit…this preoccupies everyone but the dog walkers doing it.” Stephens, who retired after founding a successful dog-walking cooperative, argues that dog-walking is the ideal occupation for both avoiding the 9-to-5 grind and developing a philosophical view of the world: “Walking confers real time for asking questions, in a manner most activities do not.” He constantly examines his encounters through an anarchist lens of social consciousness, noting that the responsibility with which the wealthy entrust their dog-walkers “is highly mediated by race and class.”

A thoughtful, odd, amusing (albeit occasionally precious) fusion of memoir, career guide, and anarchist screed with built-in appeal for millennials.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61219-451-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2015


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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