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Readers will learn plenty about Montaigne and more about Perry.

The essays of Montaigne spark midlife reflection by the rural Wisconsin–based author.

With a kidney stone as a shared affliction, Perry (The Jesus Cow, 2015, etc.) discovered an unlikely affinity with the French aristocrat, a shared humanity and spirit of discovery that bridge centuries, continents, and cultural differences. “You read Montaigne, you feel like you have a friend,” writes the author, and so readers are likely to feel about Perry, who has often drawn from his small-town life with self-deprecating humor and Midwestern common sense. That same spirit permeates his scattershot reading of Montaigne, a body of work he approaches without anything resembling academic rigor; he mainly allows one thing to lead to another, from Montaigne to commentaries on Montaigne to meditations on the author’s own life. “The desire to write about Montaigne puts me in heavy traffic on a tricycle,” writes Perry. It’s an image he likes so much that he later uses it to suggest his own limitations as a writer: “When I crack and read two pages of Dylan Thomas or Zora Neale Hurston, I understand that I am in the Tour de France on a tricycle.” Yet Perry’s refreshing candor, the essence of the personal essay, serves him well, as he opens his soul about his depression and anxiety, his marriage, his health (and hypochondria), and his recognition of the gulf between the persona he presents as a writer and performer and the person he knows (or suspects) himself to be. Though he supports himself by writing for money, and need make no apology for that, his aim here seems more like a soul-cleansing confession, like a writer talking to himself about the issues that concern him most. As he explains of his reading of Montaigne, “we only come to understand ourselves over time and then never fully. He was less interested in drawing conclusions about himself than having a conversation with himself. The dialogue would end only in death.”

Readers will learn plenty about Montaigne and more about Perry.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-223056-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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