Honest and compassionate.

A creative writing professor’s memoir of two profoundly intense relationships that permanently marked his life.

Lisicky (Unbuilt Projects, 2012, etc.) met novelist Denise Gess in the early 1980s when both were graduate students at Rutgers University. She was everything that he, a then-closeted gay man, was not: vivacious, funny, and “able to hold the attention of an entire group of freshmen.” But it was not until Gess’ death from cancer that he began to reflect not only on the intense emotional relationship he had with her, but also with the poet, M., whom he married and then divorced. In a nonlinear narrative that moves back and forth in time and space to focus on episodes in the lives of all three main figures, Lisicky portrays not only the details of their lives as working writers, but also the emotional ups and downs he experienced with both his friend and his lover. In the early days of his friendship with Gess, she called Lisicky “two times a day, sometimes for two or three hours at a time.” But closeness also bred competitiveness in their professional relationship, as well as a possessiveness that not only suggested the two were “a little in love with each other,” but also led to emotional betrayals on both sides. On the other hand, Lisicky’s intimate relationship with M. mirrored the unconsummated one he had with Gess in how their connection seemed to reflect “some powerful exchange of psychic materials between [them].” Yet all their closeness did not prevent his husband's eventual departure from the relationship with another man. His world upended by Gess’ illness, Lisicky realized a painful truth. The closer he got to people, the more he had to acknowledge their freedom to die and/or leave him. With empathy and emotional finesse, the author renders the fragility of interpersonal connections, and he offers insight into the complicated nature of the human heart.

Honest and compassionate.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55597-728-3

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015


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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