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THE UNEXPECTED GUEST

HOW A HOMELESS MAN FROM THE STREETS OF L.A. REDEFINED OUR HOME

Honest and entertaining, this book forces readers to confront the systems of inequality in which we are all implicated.

One privileged LA couple tastes the labyrinthine magnitude of the city’s homelessness epidemic when they invite one of those chronically affected to live in their backyard guest cottage.

Konik (Report From the Street: Voices of the Homeless, 2018, etc.), an ex–professional gambler, and his wife, jazz singer Charmaine Clamor, have tired of their lives of material success. They have reoriented themselves away from the pursuit of fame and fortune to that of healing, creativity, and community building. “Maybe the better angels of our nature aren’t as distant and inaccessible as most of us imagine,” muses Konik. “Maybe all that’s required to access and embrace these angels is to decide consciously and willfully that we’ve got everything we’ll ever need, with plenty of extra to share.” When Fisher King Mike, a local man who suffers from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and chronic homelessness, comes to them for help, they trepidatiously begin a process of trust-building that starts with Mike’s bags camping out behind their hedge. Two years later, he’s become part of the family. To the book’s credit, all parties behave in a deeply human manner. Mike proves himself to be an excellent handyman but struggles with reliability and his cadre of inner demons. Konik and his wife waffle between their generosity and their distrust, their resistance to having their space and routine disturbed and their concerns about Mike’s hygiene. Though Konik’s dialogue can be wooden as he translates his narration from the stage to the page (he’s currently a comedian as well as a writer), and lapses into self-promotion or melodrama sometimes distract the reader from the bigger issues at stake, Konik has an amusing storytelling style that keeps the pages turning.

Honest and entertaining, this book forces readers to confront the systems of inequality in which we are all implicated.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63576-729-2

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Diversion Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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