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Informative and entertaining, forcing American readers to take some glances into what at times is an unflattering mirror.

Throughout much of our history, minor candidates have jumped into the lake of presidential politics, some making a splash.

In his latest, screenwriter, playwright, and author Stein (Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling From the Pilgrims to the Present, 2017, etc.), whose 2008 book How the States Got Their Shapes was adapted into a History Channel series, focuses on American politicians—well, sort-of politicians. Beginning in 1848, the author escorts us through the election cycles, pausing to focus on a particular fringe candidate, providing a bit of background on the candidate and speculating about what that person’s candidacy told us about ourselves—and what it could bode for the future. Some of the names will be familiar to most readers, including Joseph Smith, Victoria Woodhull, Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Pat Paulsen, Eldridge Cleaver, Stephen Colbert, and Roseanne Barr. Yet other names—and nicknames—will doubtless be new to most: Leonard “Live Forever” Jones, who claimed to be immortal; Gabriel Green, who represented the Universal Flying Saucer Party; Pigasus, a domestic pig put forth by the Youth International Party in 1968; Vermin Supreme; and the Naked Cowboy. Stein treats each candidate with a rubber band of seriousness—for some, there are stretches—and quotes liberally from various sources, both print and online. The author also deals with a variety of “firsts”—the first woman, the first African American, the first “transhumanist,” and so on. He discusses how the internet and social media have propelled a number of folks into presidential prominence, including “Deez Nuts,” who turned out to be a teenager from Iowa. The author’s tone varies throughout, from amused to ironic to admonitory. Donald Trump lumbers in from time to time, but, as Stein notes, he is hardly the first to be called “the clown in the White House”: Lincoln, for one, preceded him.

Informative and entertaining, forcing American readers to take some glances into what at times is an unflattering mirror.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64012-032-7

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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