Many of those who look for their real names here will feel they could have written a better book.

There is lots of name-dropping and post-punk heroin hipster cliché in this memoir by a rock journalist who seems to be a legend in his own mind.

More of the self-deprecation suggested by the title would have benefitted the manuscript. Though Spitz has published biographies with titles such as Jagger: Rebel, Rock Star, Rambler, Rogue (2011), he’s mainly familiar as a writer for Spin, where he jumped the sinking ship “in 2006 after nine years and fourteen cover stories.” His account of the Spin years shows panache, as he rose from website blogger to gossip columnist to feature writer—where he developed a friendship and rivalry with the more successful Chuck Klosterman. He describes his first encounter with a reporter for that magazine, who described her beat as “a cool hunter…I spot trends and I write about them,” and then he proceeds to gush that “Spin magazine was, in the late eighties and early nineties, a glorious thing. Running into a real Spin writer was akin to brushing up against a senator or congressman. These were people with real power.” Ultimately, Spitz ascended to what he terms “a privileged view,” interviewing rock artists and attending concerts for free. Beyond the scope of the subtitle, there is plenty about college, heroin addiction, unpublished poetry and novels, unproduced LA screenplays and an email friendship with Courtney Love. An opening disclaimer admits that “certain names and descriptions of individuals have been altered”—which is fine when referring to a generic junkie buddy as “Hazy Jane” but inexplicable in repeated references to a well-known scenester who signed the MC5 and the Stooges and inspired the Ramones’ “Danny Says.”

Many of those who look for their real names here will feel they could have written a better book.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-306-82174-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013


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



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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