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In constructing his aching, poignant narrative, Mann offers a fine meditation on fate and on how “the story of addiction is...

An ambitious, literary-minded memoir of the author’s relationship with his late brother, a much older heroin addict.

Mann (Writing/Univ. of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere2013) works on a number of different levels, delivering a narrative of addiction, memory, and family dynamics; of the attempt to see someone through the eyes and different memories of other people; and of the challenges faced by a writer as he attempts to fulfill his literary ambitions. Ultimately, this is a memoir about trying to write a memoir: the challenge, the impossibility, and the catharsis. It begins at the funeral of Mann’s older brother, Josh, since the author, 13 at the time, “once read a Philip Roth novel that begins over a grave.” Before he’s done, he will invoke Nabokov, Burroughs, Woolf, and Kincaid as literary antecedents whose inspiration has informed his own work. Unlike, say, James Frey, Mann drops his cards on the table from the start, admitting in his author’s note that though the focus of the book is a real person, “it is not, however, an exact representation of his life. People’s memories contradict one another, and many of the scenes are my imagined versions of the stories they told me, complete with my own subjectivity.” In the book, in death, and in the memories of the author and others, Josh is larger than life, a person who “could have been a rock star so easily. Some kind of star,” as a friend recalls. He was a would-be musician, a would-be writer, the lover of all sorts of gorgeous, exotic women, a troubled child from before the author’s birth, and a junkie who died alone, unexpected and inexplicably, after he’d shown his family and friends he’d cleaned up.

In constructing his aching, poignant narrative, Mann offers a fine meditation on fate and on how “the story of addiction is the story of memory, and how we never get it right.”

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1101870242

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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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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