Next book


Excerpts from Lincoln’s autobiographical writings, some quite brief, selected, edited, and annotated by Zall, a senior researcher at the Huntington Library. Zall wants these passages culled from letters and other sources to provide “a story of Lincoln’s life in his own words.” Unfortunately, the 16th president was not loquacious, certainly not about his quotidian life, so he reveals little. As Zall admits, “He was not the kind of person to bare his soul in public or in private.” We do learn to share the young Lincoln’s excitement when he earns his first dollar; we cringe as he consents to sew shut the eyes of some intransigent hogs; we laugh at some of the doggerel he composes about his rural background (“When first my father settled here, / “Twas then the frontier line: / The panther’s scream, filled night with fear / And bears preyed on the swine”); we admire him for his stand on slavery (the sight of slaves was “a continual torment to me,” he notes); and we tremble with the dramatic irony of a vision he has in late 1860: in the mirror he sees a faint second image alongside the first, and his wife believes it’s a dark harbinger of his death. Zall reminds us that Lincoln won only 40 percent of the popular vote in 1860, that he freed slaves only in the states that had seceded, that he was in some ways a reluctant candidate. What does not emerge in these excerpts, however, is any sense of why Lincoln came to be who he was. Why did he not simply remain a farmer? Why did he struggle so hard to educate himself? Why did he want to enter politics? Whence his fierce humanism? Abe may have been honest, but about his own character, he was none too candid. A collection that casts a strong light, but so much of it falls behind the president that shadows obscure his face—and much of his character.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8131-2141-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1999

Next book


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

Next book



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

Close Quickview