One needs to be in the mood for lyrical lamentation, but Kingsnorth’s is a voice worth listening to.

Environmentalist and historical novelist Kingsnorth (Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays, 2017, etc.) chronicles his efforts to get back to the land.

A few years back, the author “had a plan”: to get out of urbanized England, cross a just-big-enough sea to Ireland, and return to nature, schooling the kids at home, growing food, drawing water from a well—the whole rural ideal as celebrated by Yeats and company. The house he found, not far from the River Shannon, wasn’t quite the stuff of romantic idyll, more a concrete bunker—concrete being the dream of Irish folk “escaping just as soon as they could from the tiny, picturesque, damp, cramped, whitewash-and-thatch cottages” of the postcards. There was no end to the work, but the work was worth it if it meant escaping from The Machine—besides, as Kingsnorth writes, “art that doesn’t come from pain is just entertainment.” Much pain ensued as the author wrestled with the big questions: If the world is coming to an end, is it worth writing? Why write, anyway? “Am I trying to direct your thoughts here, or mine?” he wonders, agonizing about the meaning of it all, adding later that he feels unmoored in a world that has no culture but plenty of civilization, “and they are not the same thing." A little angst goes a long way, and it doesn’t help when Zen koans get mixed into the picture: If you don’t exist, are you really writing? In the end, a book that begins with the promise of adventure turns into a kind of journal of pondering and meditation, which is not at all a bad thing—think Alan Watts’ Cloud-Hidden. One wishes for a little of the sinew of Roger Deakins’ like-minded book Waterlog, but spiritual seekers with a mind to leave the workaday world will find that there’s plenty to think about as Kingsnorth works his way through his many questions.

One needs to be in the mood for lyrical lamentation, but Kingsnorth’s is a voice worth listening to.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-937512-85-9

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019


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



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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