THE SICK BAG SONG

Like Cave’s growling music, this book isn’t for everyone, but who doesn’t like the specter of “a gloop of ectoplasm spurting...

The gloomy Aussie rock star ponders the ways of the road in this blend of prose and poetry.

The sick bag: until the airlines decide to trim the cost, every seatback contains one. Constantly airborne but not prone to motion sickness, Cave (The Death of Bunny Munro, 2009) chose to use the device as an impromptu notebook to record a tour of 2014. “You must take the first step alone,” his guardian angel intoned as, packed into a van brought to a crawl on the highway by a decapitated accident victim, he tried to get some sleep. A few cities later, the author had a theme: a man at a German restaurant in Milwaukee served him “a pretzel big as a severed human head.” It’s not the most appetizing vision, but Cave’s sick bag becomes a medicine bundle of a kind, a storeroom of such images, to say nothing of books by Patti Smith and songs by Elvis Presley and company. The author hovers above the Platonic domains of beauty and ugliness, the former perhaps best represented by Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, who waves his manicured hand across an idyllic English landscape and confesses to not having written a song in years, saying, “there is nothing to write about.” A devotee of grimmer venues, Cave surveys the loveliness of a Canadian river (“pleasant,” “faultless,” and “fabulous” are three of the glowing adjectives that come in quick succession) and then rushes back to the hotel to write a poem that begins, “I was born in a puddle of blood wanting everything.” Well, at least the head remains on the body. Along the way, Cave channels Allen Ginsberg (“Hop in my sick bag! All you wild Texas girls!”), casts a sideways look or two at rock-star fame and the music business, and generally amuses himself with bouquets of words.

Like Cave’s growling music, this book isn’t for everyone, but who doesn’t like the specter of “a gloop of ectoplasm spurting through the orange air”?

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-81465-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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