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Studded with insights and with prose as elegant as that in either writer’s fiction, these letters delineate an epistolary...

The correspondence of New Yorker editor William Maxwell and poet, short-story writer, and novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner.

The letters range, as Maxwell puts it, over “poetry, casuals, sculptures, and Gregorian chant.” The pair only met three times, but Maxwell edited Warner’s work for years, and their correspondence sustained them both through rough patches. We learn of Carl Van Doren’s anxieties that an installment of a great novel might be lost in the mails (this was before the days of floppy disks), of the death of old friends, of Warner’s love for Provence, of Maxwell’s regret that he did not read the Victorian novelists at a younger age. We learn about the writers’ attitudes toward religion and their opinions on bedroom fireplaces. We read Warner praising the sparing beauty of Maxwell’s prose (he wrote fiction on the side), and we learn which fictional details Maxwell likes best (in one case, a portion of oxtail stew). The letters abound in moving, heartfelt observations as simple as Maxwell’s of September 20, 1966: “Rooting in the attic,” he found five or six of Warner’s letters from the 1930s and quietly observed, “We have been writing to each other for about thirty years now.” There is precious little name-dropping, and the editor avoids excessive annotation. Steinman (English/Nassau Community College), who previously edited Maxwell’s correspondence with Frank O’Connor (The Happiness of Getting It Down Right, 1996), should also be thanked for including as an appendix Maxwell’s previously uncollected short memoir of Warner, “What You Can’t Hang Onto.” The only texts missing here are Warner’s collected works, so we could see for ourselves just how brilliant and insightful Maxwell’s notoriously brilliant and insightful editorial comments really were.

Studded with insights and with prose as elegant as that in either writer’s fiction, these letters delineate an epistolary friendship that makes 84 Charing Cross Road look dull.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2001

ISBN: 1-58243-118-3

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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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