William James, suffice it to say, would probably be appalled at first, and then fascinated.

A personal quest into the intersection of Islam and mind-altering drugs.

“I am a Muslim with plans with tripping with Allah, if Allah so wills, making me simultaneously a participant in two religions of high discomfort in our present America.” A sentence like that, which comes early in the pages of Knight’s (Osama Van Halen, 2009, etc.) memoir, isn’t going to win its author points with Homeland Security or the Salafi mullahs. It is thoroughly revealing of Knight’s program, however, which started off as a scholarly inquiry: He wanted to consider the effects of drug use on a modern Islamic practitioner—a “chemically enhanced Sufism,” as a friend puts it—in much the same way an anthropologist might look at a drug-induced spirit journey among an Amazonian people. The author is cautiously academic in some respects; he worries, for example, that his discipline is painting with too wide a brush by applying the rubric “shamanism”—once specific to the peoples of northern Siberia—to such spirit journeys around the world. But Knight is also exuberant, sometimes to the point of channeling, directly or indirectly, the menacing drug dealer in the movie Withnail & I (1987): “I’ve put substances  into my body that are so fuckin’ condemned by society that I wouldn’t even name them to you. So, from that experience, I’d say to go for it.” Does Knight succeed in melding ayahuasca and Islam? It’s most certainly worth reading this intelligent book to find out, for it has, beg pardon, a higher purpose than its surface gonzoism might suggest at first, with its smart meditations on consciousness and the passage of time.

William James, suffice it to say, would probably be appalled at first, and then fascinated.

Pub Date: March 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59376-443-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013


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



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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