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A thought-provoking memoir about the significance of literature in life.

A distinguished fiction writer traces the relationship between significant periods in her life and the novels she was reading during those defining times.

From the time she was a child, Hill (MFA Program/Sarah Lawrence Coll. Who Occupies This House, 2010, etc.) had a sense that events unfolding around her were “inside a story.” The first time she experienced the way life and art mirrored each other was in a seventh-grade music class. Around the time her teacher told students about the accident that ended her career as a concert pianist, Hill immersed herself in Willa Cather’s Lucy Gayheart. The heroine's accidental drowning prepared the author for the death of a friend’s father, who committed suicide by jumping into the town reservoir. When she was 23, she traveled to Nigeria with her husband to teach. There, she encountered Things Fall Apart and learned about Nigeria’s racist colonial history, all without fully realizing how deeply implicated her own “right-thinking” country was in that brutal past. Reading A Portrait of a Lady cast her own innocence, both about colonial Africa and her own rushed union with her husband, into uncomfortable relief: like slavery, “marriage involved...the desire…to bend another’s will to the requirements of one’s own.” On a later trip to France, the author was drawn to Madame Bovary and the female protagonist who believed that reality “hover[ed] just beyond reach”; and then to Diary of a Country Priest, which offered her insight into how she had been looking at the people around her “through the lens of fear” rather than love. But it would be À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, which she read many years later to a nearly blind Diana Trilling, that would cause her to think more deeply about the mysteries of life. Eloquent and searching, Hill’s book explores the strange and wondrous resonances between the read and lived while celebrating reading itself as among the most profoundly transformative of human acts.

A thought-provoking memoir about the significance of literature in life.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-883285-72-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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