DO WHAT THOU WILT

A LIFE OF ALEISTER CROWLEY

Still, this is certainly the biography against which to measure the lurid claims and devout counterclaims prompted by the...

Sutin (Divine Invasions, 1989) paints a rich narrative of the eccentric visionary Aleister Crowley’s life, which now seems somewhat ho-hum as for his sexual escapades—the source of much of his bad press—but all the more vile for his egomania and fascist tendencies.

He was called the wickedest man on earth; he also adorned the cover of the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album: Aleister Crowley was an expert on the art of high magic, the white variety (which has nothing to do with purity and everything to do with “the most sublime privilege of man”): “By development of will-power, by rigorous self-control, by solitude, meditation and prayer, a man may be granted the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel.” The author’s intent is to get beyond the exotic image. This he does mostly by putting Crowley’s human face on display: the mountaineer, the family man, the serious investigator of the astral plane. Yet ever-present are Crowley’s ugly maneuverings in the magic community, his pleasure at Hitler’s supposed use of his work, and his abuse of friends. Crowley’s sexual acrobatics no longer shock, and they are unconvincing as a sacramental ritual. Sutin is a very clean writer, which makes a difference considering the level of detail on parade (“From March 23 to April 7, Crowley endured a fallow period”), but he fails to convey any sense of Crowley’s mystical notions or experiences. When he relates that “In the Tenth Aethyr, Crowley would confront the Dispersion of the Abyss,” it might as well be liner notes for a PlayStation game, and when a character whispers “Chaos is my name, and thick darkness,” the reader gets no chill.

Still, this is certainly the biography against which to measure the lurid claims and devout counterclaims prompted by the Crowley legend. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-25243-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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