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A lightly investigative biography about a painting’s provenance and its hidden romantic history.

A breezy bit of art history about a 1939 affair between the author’s father and Frida Kahlo in Paris.

Combining both research and conjecture, photographer and documentary filmmaker Petitjean attempts to retrace the circumstances of this underdocumented romance. Frida visited Paris in 1939; she left an adulterous Diego Rivera back in Mexico and found herself on an emotional threshold before her European debut in André Breton’s exhibition of Mexican art. While Breton and other surrealists fetishized her foreignness, Michel Petitjean, the author’s father and local gallerist, saw beyond that surface impression. Michel and Frida had a short affair, during which she gave him a small painting called The Heart, which was a fitting token for the man who, for once, saw all of her. The painting, writes the author is “a concentration of the key characteristics in [her] art and her biography: intimacy, identity, physical and psychological suffering, references to Mexican culture, and references to art history.” While the story is transportive and dreamy, the author’s awkward sequencing of facts and loose creative license muddle the scholarly authority. For example, Petitjean doesn’t explain until near the end of the narrative that his father studied Mexican civilizations at the Museum of Ethnography. Stylistically, he often embellishes: He remarks on the subtle implications of Breton’s “tone of voice” and, elsewhere, imagines mental pictures in his father’s mind. He also writes that, one morning during a pain spell, Frida “contemplates each of her organs in turn.” Petitjean is undeterred by a lack of concrete sources: “I do not have any information to know for sure…but by cross-checking the whereabouts, circumstances, and personalities of the protagonists I will attempt to reconstruct the scene.” While prefacing another tangent, he writes, “I imagine, but I may be wrong.” While his heart’s in the right place, the author’s penchant for stylized prose often overwhelms the book’s more academic qualities.

A lightly investigative biography about a painting’s provenance and its hidden romantic history.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59051-990-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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