Observant, affecting writing about an Australian childhood.

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THE MAGICAL APPEARANCE OF EARTHWORMS

Moncrief’s debut memoir recalls the joys and sorrows of growing up in an Australian country town.

“It was the late 1960s,” remarks the author, “but we were still living in what was effectively 1950s rural Australia.” Along with his older brother, Darren, Moncrief was raised in Tilburn, 30 miles outside of Melbourne. The memoir focuses predominantly on vivid memories from the author’s childhood in a quiet town where “everyone minded their own business and kept mostly to themselves.” Moncrief recalls journeys to a racetrack with his father, who trained horses, befriending a lizard that lived under the back step of the family home, and nursing an injured sparrow back to health. These sensitive recollections are interspersed with tales of cruelty and abuse. As a young boy, the author admits, he received so many bloody noses from his brother that one of his nostrils became “permanently blocked.” The memoir also charts the author’s coping with his parents’ divorce and grappling with adolescence. Each chapter is built around a particular person or event that left an impression on the author’s young mind. One, for example, discusses the author’s first sight of a pregnant woman and his father’s remarking, “pregnant women are beautiful.” This heavily anecdotal approach has the potential to grow tiring, but Moncrief avoids that by capturing a young boy’s naiveté in a satisfyingly amusing manner: “I couldn’t imagine what was wrong with her—that big, swollen stomach bursting forth from her body!” The author has the power to tug at the reader’s emotions—after his lizard was killed by a bully, he writes sorrowfully: “[I] pushed his little body into the crack from where I’d taken him the night before. ‘I’m so sorry, little mate,’ I said. ‘I love you so much.’ ” Moncrief puts a recognizably Australian stamp on the memoir by using Aussie vernacular, from dunny (toilet) to chooks (chickens). Tenderly evoking the minutiae of childhood while celebrating liberation from its horrors, this thoughtfully written, well-balanced book will encourage readers to reflect on their own upbringings.

Observant, affecting writing about an Australian childhood.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72839-716-0

Page Count: 234

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A fast-paced and boisterously readable assemblage of true stories.

WHO NEEDS HEAVEN?

TRUE STORIES

A memoir offers vignettes from an entire lifetime.

In his latest work of nonfiction, Binder looks back on his life and renders several incidents and themes in a series of autobiographical stories. The author has led a picaresque life, with many adventures and crises, and he’s inserted many of these escapades into the entertaining, touching, and often enlightening tales arranged in these pages. He takes readers back to his childhood, painting affectionate portraits of the many people who influenced him while he was growing up. Binder includes a particularly memorable remembrance of his mother, who was felled by a serious stroke that robbed her of her speech (“Visiting her in the human warehouse they call a hospital, I’d point to letters of the alphabet printed on a card and she would blink to spell the word she wanted to convey”). He also gives readers a captivating, behind-the-scenes look at the famous child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. Binder worked on the crew that produced the Academy Award–winning 1972 documentary about Gortner’s illusion-dispelling revival tour, in which he exposed the deceits of his childhood ministry. The author watched all of this up close and relates it with enthusiasm and sympathy. (Sometimes a touch too much sympathy, since at one point even Binder seems convinced by the enthusiasm of the crowd: “I don’t believe in magic, nor do I believe in God, but I do believe in miracles. I witnessed one.”) Whether he’s recalling partying with Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson in Las Brisas, Texas, or recounting the fracas he and his partner got into in 1966 at the Albany Convention Center when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was speaking (“Reporters grabbed at our feet trying to trip us up and bring us down. They failed. I was exhilarated”), the author has clearly told most of these tales many times in his life. These written versions are fine-tuned to perfection and provide a large and constantly moving banquet of intriguing moments.

A fast-paced and boisterously readable assemblage of true stories.

Pub Date: March 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9998695-5-0

Page Count: 363

Publisher: F-Stop Books

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2020

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Such thoughts are raised by one great exception to this way of our world: The Library of America. Quietly, without...

HENRY JAMES

COMPLETE STORIES, 1864-1874

            As recently as a hundred years ago, in a more assured age than this, the enduring importance of a literary career could be measured by whether an edition of an author’s collected works was issued.  Bound in calfskin for the wealthy bibliophile, in a more modest cloth of some subdued hue for the less well-to-do, these sets made several statements about an age.  They suggested that readers could most appreciate writers by knowing the entirety of their work and not simply one or two particularly flashy efforts.  And those ranks of volumes, filling the shelves of home libraries, further showed that it was possible for individuals to possess much of the best work by the best minds.

            Who nowadays would be so audacious as to assert such a possibility?  The persistent literary and academic battles raging among various mutually uncomprehending camps would make consensus on most living authors almost unimaginable.  And how many writers would be comfortable issuing a set of their complete writings?  In a time when authors are only as memorable as their last book, when novelty is king, and when time for reading itself is forever under siege, the leisurely delight implied by collected works seems curious and antique.

            Such thoughts are raised by one great exception to this way of our world:  The Library of America.  Quietly, without contention or confusion, The Library has been issuing authoritative editions of the work of America’s most influential 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century writers in compact, crisply designed volumes at affordable prices.  So swiftly (there are now 108 in print) and with so little controversy in an era notable for wrangling has this been accomplished that it’s shocking to realize that so important a historical and cultural resource as The Library of America has been in existence for only two decades.  Again this fall, the eclectic nature of the project is evident in its editors’ offerings, which include the lucid, rather urgent political essays and speeches of James Madison, the surprisingly graceful natural-history writings of John James Audubon, the five influential crime novels of Dashiell Hammett, and a further volume of the stories of Henry James.  The Library’s editions are valuable in their own right, providing the finest versions of work that has shaped the national imagination.  They’re valuable also, however, as a corrective to the hectic spirit of our age, and as a pointed reminder that what a writer does over a lifetime – not within the confines of one or two bestsellers – is what matters most.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-883011-70-1

Page Count: 975

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1999

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