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ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY

A MEMOIR

This is “the book that somehow fell to me, the son, to write,” states the author, describing himself as “my father’s...

A noir family history told in small ladlings—perhaps all the reader may want to absorb at one time, or all the talented Flynn (Some Ether, 2000) can pour at a sitting.

His mother left her husband when the author was four years old. In a snapshot taken in the early 1960s, “I crawl toward my father’s face as we lay on the grass. . . . The father as ship, as vessel, holding the child afloat. But there was a parallel father as well—the drunk, the con, the paranoid. The father as ship, but taking on water, going down.” Flynn didn’t see his father again for 24 years. In the interval, his mother committed suicide after hovering “in the realm of vapor and shade,” though not before her son had embarked on his drinking career: “By the time Saigon falls I'm drinking whatever liquor I can get my hands on.” He’s 15. When Dad finally gives him a call, they are both wrecks: the elder an alcoholic ex-con living flop to flop, rifling garbage cans, still making stabs at writing, but more concerned with how to stay dry on a rainy night; the younger a doper, part-time drug-runner, working in a homeless shelter, adrift on a “sea of forgetfulness.” While the author ever so slowly, with lots of swings, gathers himself, his father takes to driving a taxi, more for scoping out sleeping venues than collecting fares. Flynn drives the homeless shelter van at night, each bundle a push-pull chance to encounter his father. The voice here is boiled just right: tough, articulate, mindful, without self-pity. There will be little bonding, and any knitting up of the ragged sleeve will have to wait for another time and plane.

This is “the book that somehow fell to me, the son, to write,” states the author, describing himself as “my father’s uncredited, non-compliant ghostwriter.” So give credit now, where it is well due.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2004

ISBN: 0-393-05139-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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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

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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