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Fantastic? Hardly.

Skin-deep treatment of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise and rise.

Kennedy family biographer Leamer (Sons of Camelot, 2004, etc.) re-creates their most famous in-law as a shallow and aggrandizing man—pretty much like the persona Schwarzenegger has already created for himself. While a boy growing up in Austria, Arnold was overshadowed by a winsome brother, nurtured by a protective mother and beaten by a brutish father. Admittedly not a reader, the youngster trained his body into enormity so he could do one thing: leave Austria and become a star. Schwarzenegger achieved his goal and shrewdly conquered the worlds of bodybuilding and feature films before capitalizing on the opportunity to live out his dream of American civic duty. Leamer halfheartedly dresses this cocky suprahuman in an underdog’s cloak of self-deprecation, shilling anecdotes about Schwarzenegger’s crippling need to be admired. Entertaining if farcical tales about Conan the Barbarian and Terminator soon reach the same editorialized conclusion: that it was Schwarzenegger alone who made these movies successful. Leamer dispenses casual nods to hot topics like Arnold’s steroid use and aggressive womanizing, but each time he’s exonerated with a shrug. Meanwhile, the author’s assurances that his subject is not anti-Semitic, which take Arnold’s crush on a married Jewish woman, and dealings with Jewish associates as enough to disprove prejudice, similarly duck an issue that could have made this an interesting consideration of contemporary immigrant success. Leamer’s refusal to write with a critical eye means that Schwarzenegger’s true self remains unknown. Stories from those who do know him fumble inelegantly across the page without finesse, as do superfluous nuggets concerning political rivals. The author concedes that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who cannot be told the truth. It’s a moment of rare candor in a biography that mostly settles for skimming the surface.

Fantastic? Hardly.

Pub Date: June 7, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33338-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2005

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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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