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In its ambition, framing, and multiple layers, this raises the bar for graphic narrative. Even fans of her work in the New...

A graphic memoir turns the search for identity inside out as it illuminates the creative process.

This multilayered narrative might best be categorized as a “meta-memoir,” a memoir about the writing of this memoir. New Yorker cartoonist Finck (A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, 2014) struggles to achieve cohesion and coherence within a story that remains something of a muddle for her. The artist within the narrative dubs this “a neurological coming-of-age story,” as she attempts to account for her lifelong feelings of “otherness” or “weirdness” and writes of losing her own shadow, which gave her some perspective on her life and some meaning to it. So she tries to keep returning to the beginning, with each chapter labeled “Chapter One” in a work-in-progress titled “Passing for Human,” something that the artist—or the artist drawn by the author—apparently feels she hasn’t done very well. Finck begins one version of this narrative with her mother, another with her father, and a couple with a soulmate who keeps on disappearing. Preceding each fresh start is an epigram—from the likes of Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson et al.—and within many of them is an earlier creation story, a myth, or a Bible story, one that might connect to her experiences. All of this continues to swirl through the artist’s head, reducing her art to a scrawl and her consciousness to a mess of darkness—until the epiphany, when the art itself becomes luminous, as the pages turn from white to black and the lines on them from black to white, and the artist has transcended, her “fears, unarticulated [which] gnaw at her like rats.”

In its ambition, framing, and multiple layers, this raises the bar for graphic narrative. Even fans of her work in the New Yorker will be blindsided by this outstanding book.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-50892-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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