A LIFE IN WORDS

IN CONVERSATION WITH I.B. SIEGUMFELDT

A valuable resource much better suited to the classroom than the nightstand.

A close reading of several of Auster’s works as rendered through transcribed interviews between the author and scholar I.B. Siegumfeldt.

Few contemporary novelists are studied as rigorously as Auster (4 3 2 1, 2017, etc.), particularly in Europe. There are more than 40 scholarly texts about his work, and Siegumfeldt recently opened the Center for Paul Auster Studies at the University of Copenhagen, where she is a professor of English, Germanic, and Romance Studies; this book adds another level to the discourse. In many ways, it’s an unlikely project for Auster, who has a notoriously tenuous relationship with critics, and his hesitation is apparent in many of his answers—e.g., “a writer can’t analyze his own work,” he says to Siegumfeldt in the prologue—particularly in the first half of the book, which is devoted to Auster’s memoirs and autobiographical work, including The Red Notebook (2002) and Winter Journal (2012). But Siegumfeldt is a dogged interviewer with an encyclopedic knowledge of Auster’s work, and she is mostly able to break down those barriers. Though the tone is casual and the banter between them feels mostly conversational, nonscholarly readers may find the going tough. (For Auster enthusiasts just looking to spend time in his company, Here and Now, his 2013 collection of letters exchanged with J.M. Coetzee, is a better fit.) Rather, the chapters are detailed and rely on a precise and current knowledge of Auster’s body of work. To get anything out of the conversation, it’s almost imperative to read each chapter alongside the corresponding Auster text. While some readers might be overjoyed at insights that come straight from the author, hearing his interpretation of his own fiction does, in some ways, leave little room for the reader’s own imagination.

A valuable resource much better suited to the classroom than the nightstand.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60980-777-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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