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Atwood (The Robber Bride, 1993, etc.) is always at her worst when her acerbic sneer overwhelms other elements, and there is barely room for anything else in these short-short works. With the laundry-list mentality usually reserved for dead authors, this collection gathers up pieces that have appeared in magazines and earlier collections and simply regroups them according to a criterion that has more to do with brevity than quality. Most lack structure and read like beginning ideas rather than finished stories. Some try to turn fairy tales around, but they tend to be unfocused. In "Unpopular Gals," an "ugly stepsister" rails against fairy-tale conventions like well-behaved daughters and the fact that "there are never any evil stepfathers." In "There Was Once," the narrator tries to write a fairy tale but keeps backtracking to avoid sounding "passe" and inaccurate. "Women's Novels" also attempts literary revisionism, but its stabs at humor are blunt ("Women's novels leave out parts of the men as well. Sometimes it's the stretch between the belly button and the knees, sometimes it's the sense of humor"). "Making a Man" gives instructions for just that, and again, jokes about making males out of marzipan and gingerbread do not go any deeper. "Happy Endings" fares a little better with a list of possible scenarios for a love relationship, prefaced by the warning to read only the first "If you want a happy ending," but it is the exception among smug fluff like the poem "Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women" ("all those who dry their freshly shampooed poodles in the microwave") and "Liking Men," an examination of men and their parts that veers far off-track. Atwood has clearly grasped the differences between men and women, but her mistake lies in believing that she is the only one who has. Readers will resent paying what averages out to about ten dollars per hour for this.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-47110-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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