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A light-footed meditation on the literary life that will be best appreciated by his fans.

Brief thoughts on the purpose and meaning of writing from a writer not known for his brevity.

This book, first presented as the 2017 Windham-Campbell Lecture at Yale University, has a few trademark Knausgaard (Summer, 2018, etc.) moves. It’s digressive, shifting focus from the painter Edvard Munch to Ursula K. Le Guin to Ulysses, and it’s shot through with a low-boil anxiety, as the author wrings his hands over his writing and how it’s received by critics. Knausgaard engages in all of this meandering to explore a pair of straightforward, if somewhat contradictory, points: that literature is one of the most powerful tools we have to connect individuals to a collective humanity and that the true measure of a writer’s success is an ability to ignore the herd and soldier forth individually. The success of the My Struggle series as a work of art, he explains, came from his willingness to reject artifice and simply plow ahead: “I simply wouldn’t have time to think, to plan or to calculate.” That’s not to say he rejects artfulness, just that he privileges emotion in literature. He prefers the James Joyce of “The Dead” to the one who wrote Finnegans Wake, though emotion alone isn’t enough; the hollow provocations of Game of Thrones leave him cold. Navigating this unsteady line between the head and the heart doesn’t lend itself to simple answers to the lecture’s prompt (“Why I Write”), but the book has a motivational quality all the same. For any writer seeking reassurance of the virtue of rewriting, his description of “eight hundred pages of beginnings” is a kind of balm. But he demands that writers never shy away from big questions: “What is the meaning of life? Where does this meaning come from? Who am I?”

A light-footed meditation on the literary life that will be best appreciated by his fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-300-22151-0

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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