A RAGE TO LIVE

A BIOGRAPHY OF RICHARD AND ISABEL BURTON

A refreshing historical narrative, from Beryl Markham biographer Lovell. Sergeant Joe Friday would have approved of Lovell’s investigative technique: just the biographical facts, ma’am. She takes the linear route, starting at the beginning and ending at the end, which is not to say the book is without filigree or incapable of veering off into various interesting byways. Material that has been handled in any number of biographies of Richard Burton is presented here with a storyteller’s grace. One reads of his vagabond youth, when he was a hellion and snubber of authority; his sensual and intellectual hunger, his ability to sop up knowledge and languages like a sponge; the African and Arabian exploits, the sunstroke, dysentery, malaria, syphilis, agues, lameness, and blindness. And there are the controversies, with his colleague John Speke, with the prim hypocrites of Victorian England, with everybody at the British Foreign Office. Lovell does an equally thorough job with Isabel: the tony youth, the London season and the circuit of balls, through the years working and traveling with Richard. What Lovell offers that is new is acute observations (mostly the result of finding untapped caches of primary documents) regarding the nature of Richard and Isabel’s relationship (it appears, contrary to accepted folklore, to have been amorous and loving), and Richard’s sexuality and pursuit of erotica (Lovell ventures opinions only when supported by historical evidence——I confess to a sinking feeling when I see phrases such as ‘he was tortured by sexual guilt’ in any biography”). She also has some sensible things to say about Isabel’s purported torching of Richard’s manuscripts—including both copies of the erotic The Scented Garden—after his death. It is a pleasure to read someone who takes such obvious joy in her art: the broad biographical canvases, the tableaux vivants, the little mysteries that delight and vex her. The Burtons inhabit these pages, not as ghosts, but as presences. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-393-04672-9

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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

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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