Fascinating and unsettling. Still, at more than 900 pages, this will test the mettle—and the stamina—of even the most...

A dyspeptic dystopian’s mad secret notebooks, imposing order—at least of a kind—on a chaotic world.

“The majority of these writings…are neither familiar nor wholly lucid nor, largely, elegant,” write editors Lethem and Jackson. That’s exactly right. But it is a measure of the esteem in which the late science-fiction novelist Philip K. Dick is held in the literary world that Lethem and Jackson could be brought into this vast disorder—a project, in its own way, rather like the frankensteining of David Foster Wallace’s Pale King, and with many of the same conditions present: a vastness of notes, a hint of a complete system (in this case, partially imposed by a previous editor) and the impossibility of that completeness without much posthumous help. And that complete system is surpassing strange. Dick writes of a critical moment in 1974, “at the initial height of the ‘Holy Other’ pouring into me, when I saw the universe as it is, I saw as the active agent, a gold and red illuminated-letter like plasmatic entity from the future, arranging bits and pieces here: arranging what time drove forward.” Very well, then. That entity—perhaps, the editors whisper, a manifestation of epilepsy, though perhaps not—seems to have confirmed Dick’s suspicion, which lies at the heart of so much of his work, that the world we inhabit is an elaborate ruse and that any freedom we have is illusory: “We are being fed a spurious reality”; “one cannot sense that reality is somehow insubstantial unless somehow, unconsciously, one is comparing or contrasting that reality with a kind of hyper-reality; otherwise the intuition makes no sense.” A blend of diary, notebook, ledger, blotter and back-of-envelope scribbles, Dick’s “exegesis” of that reality ranges from sublime philosophizing (“Our sin is self-centered monocamerality”) to chronicling (among other things, Richard Nixon’s last days in office) to strange ranting. In short, it’s in perfect keeping with his body of work at large.

Fascinating and unsettling. Still, at more than 900 pages, this will test the mettle—and the stamina—of even the most devoted of Dick fans.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-54925-5

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011


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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