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THE BALTIMORE BOOK OF THE DEAD

Insightful pieces with a cumulative impact that wouldn’t work as well standing alone.

A sequel to The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (2008), the author’s previous collection of sharp-eyed memorials.

Though Winik (MFA Program/Univ. of Baltimore; Highs in the Low Fifties: How I Stumbled Through the Joys of Single Living, 2013, etc.) is most widely regarded as a humorist, through her columns and NPR commentary, death has been a focus of her book projects since First Comes Love (1996). As she observes in the introduction to her latest, “death is the subtext of life, there is no way around it. It is the foundation of life’s meaning and value.” The author also explains that her volumes reflect chronology rather than geography; despite the title, these aren’t Baltimore’s deaths but rather deaths that have occurred since she moved to Baltimore from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, in 2009. So there’s plenty about her New Jersey girlhood, beginning with the opening piece on her mother and proceeding through the deaths of family members and her mother’s friends. Then she moves on to her pivotal years in Texas, where she found her voice and professional identity in Austin. Winik also commemorates people she didn’t know personally but whose deaths affected her and the culture deeply, including David Bowie and Lou Reed. In writing about these dozens of deaths, the author is writing about life in general, how quickly it can change and how long a memory can persist, and her life in particular, “how big ideas about art and revolution were so easily infected with the stupid romance of self-destruction.” Some die without warning, as Winik writes of an unnamed friend (almost all of those who inspired these pieces go unnamed), “he was fifty-six, just like my own father who died the same way: the heart in the dark of the night that loses its way.” The famous and the anonymous, the scandalous and the respectable: All get their due. For all of the variety in details and circumstance, all of the stories proceed to the same ending.

Insightful pieces with a cumulative impact that wouldn’t work as well standing alone.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-121-4

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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NIGHT

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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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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