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Gonzo interviewing at its best.

Veteran pop-culture journalist Strauss (Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, 2009, etc.) offers an eclectic collection of interviews with the “artists, celebrities, and crazy people of the world.”

By his own count, the author has conducted some 3,000 interviews with the famous, not-so-famous, used-to-be-famous and ought-to-be-famous denizens of popular culture. Here he brings together the best of these interviews in loosely and at times bizarrely connected chapters. All the well-knowns are here, including Madonna, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, The Who, Kenny G, Led Zeppelin, Puffy Combs and Bo Diddley. The author also includes many lesser-known artists, such as the master mandolin player Johnny Staats, who still drives a UPS truck, and the pioneering electronic-music artist Patrick Miller, who was taken early by drugs—as are too many of the subjects here. Known or unknown, they all have something to say. The subject is not always clear, as Strauss often introduces an interview, drops it and returns to it many pages later, but that is part of the fun of his anarchic presentation. Bruce Springsteen is typically modest, noting that one of the main motivations of his music is “to try to be useful.” Chuck Berry is open, funny and scatological. Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn are achingly poignant as they speak of death and courage. Mötley Crüe gets arrested. And so it goes with hundreds of other interviews. In a concluding tribute to the late critic Paul Nelson, Strauss wonders if such obsession with pop culture is worth it. He concludes that it is, if only to allow us to reflect on our own faults and follies and on what we have and think we want.

Gonzo interviewing at its best.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-154367-8

Page Count: 560

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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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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