Amis's "autobiography"—or, more accurately—portraits of his acquaintances after a few opening chapters on his family, school days, and life at Oxford. Aside from the fact that "most writers lead dull lives," Amis says his holding hack saves pain: "To publish an account of my own intimate, domestic, sexual experiences would hurt a number of people who have emotional claims on me...and I have no desire to cause pain, or further pain, to them or myself." What that leaves Amis with is other people and his opinions, which he records in a daily stint of space-filling, all quite styleless for a respected comic novelist who has just had a hit on American TV with his script for The Green Man. He gets off to a great start, describing his father, who manufactures "unbreakable" glassware (if dropped on something besides a carpet, a plate or glass exploded like a hand grenade), and his paternal grandmother: "Mater was a large dreadful hairy-faced creature who lived to be nearly ninety and whom I loathed and feared...." Others he limns include Francis Bacon, Anthony Powell, Anthony Burgess, Roald Dahl, Malcolm Muggeridge, Margaret Thatcher, actor Terry-Thomas (a brilliant Bertrand in the film version of Lucky Jim, Amis's most famed novel), Lord Snowdon, Arnold Wesker, and many others. At times, as with Wesker, Amis paints a portrait with victorious, if not vicious, brevity—but his portraits of Robert Graves and several others are no reason to read this book. The writer's best moments are on Philip Larkin (rewritten from a version published before Larkin died), and his standing up for neglected writers, such as Elizabeth Taylor, and for Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time series. A special chapter on booze, quite funny, goes nowhere. Depthless, but the pace and variety will keep many awake.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-74909-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991


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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