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From literary historian Fussell (The Angi-Egotist, 1994; Wartime 1989; etc.), a lugubrious, frequently self-pitying account, relieved by flashes of wit, of how he evolved from a happy-go-lucky Southern California innocent into the vinegary cynic and intellectual snob he is now. Born in 1924, Fussell lived a privileged, even idyllic boyhood in Pasadena as the son of a distinguished local attorney. His principal interests were printing, photography, and magic. His innocence was unrelieved by his years at Pomona College, where he discovered literature, particularly the works of H.L. Mencken, whose acerbic and baroque contempt for America seems to have permanently marked Fussell's outlook. Neither Pomona nor Mencken was ideal preparation for his grueling WW II induction into the army and service in Company F of the 410th Infantry, 103rd Division. Combat was even more dehumanizing; here, as elsewhere, Fussell writes graphically and with simple eloquence of the disfiguring effects of combat on the body, mind, and soul of soldiers. On March 15, 1945, Fussell was severely wounded by shrapnel from a shell that killed the two men with him, and he spent considerable time experiencing the horrors of army hospital life. Annoyingly, Fussell can't help comparing all life experiences to a book he's read or a movie he's seen; he compares his field hospital to a scene in Gone With the Wind. Mustered out, he resolved to resist falsehood and cant, and after earning his Harvard doctorate, he bravely waged war on the sensibilities of the young "girl-children" of the Connecticut College for Women, whom he routinely reduced to "tears and tantrums." He moved on to despise the students at Rutgers University, whom he calls "moronic." Fussell treats the reader to a running commentary on his books and essays, venting iconoclastic views on war, culture, and other subjects along the way. Unpleasant in many ways, but valuable, as are other of Fussell's works, for a forthright portrayal of war's horrors and lasting ill effects.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 1996

ISBN: 0-316-29717-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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