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It’s great to have these insights from the author himself about his writings, but it’s a bumpy ride for all but a small,...

A collection about the art of fiction.

After the influential Argentinian writer Cortázar (1914-1984) had written his greatest and most significant works, he accepted a position at the University of California in 1980 to deliver a series of classroom talks. The first one, “A Writer’s Paths,” is autobiographical. He confesses that he’s “not systematic, I’m not a critic or a theorist, which means I look for solutions in my work as problems arise.” He passed through three stages as a writer: the aesthetic, when he was reading extensively, including Borges, who was for him a “literary heaven”; the metaphysical, which was a “slow, difficult, and very basic inquiry…into man [and his]…destiny”; and, finally, the historical, during which he realized that he had to confront his Latin American roots, its history and politics. Other talks take up the topic of the fantastic, referencing writers like Ambrose Bierce, W.F. Harvey, and Oscar Wilde. Two talks explore Cortázar's Hopscotch, A Manual for Manuel and Fantomas. He goes into great detail about how he wrote his stories and novels and reads extensively from them, sometimes entire stories. There are some tips/advice for young writers to consider, but not very much. Cortázar had some notes, but generally these talks are delivered extemporaneously. Though impressive, sometimes they ramble and lose their way, and sometimes they just get dull. Because the lectures are transcribed as is, the book would have benefited from some judicious editing—e.g., leaving out matters concerning office hours. Some kind of introduction would also have been useful. In every talk (during and after), Cortázar takes questions from the students, which are included. His responses are carefully thought out, some going on for pages.

It’s great to have these insights from the author himself about his writings, but it’s a bumpy ride for all but a small, scholarly audience.

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2534-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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