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A welcome contribution to the literature of photography and of California.

Gracefully written, thoroughly well-considered life of the 19th-century California immigrant whose strange experiments in photography yielded both Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

That’s a tall claim, but Solnit (Wanderlust, 2000, etc.) defends it capably, if sometimes obliquely. In the way of many transplants to California, English-born Eadweard Muybridge (1830–94) reinvented himself a few times—changing his name, for example, from the slightly less exotic Edward James Muggeridge—before settling down in San Francisco in 1855. Within a few years, Solnit remarks, he “became a father, a murderer, and a widower, invented a clock, patented two photographic innovations, [and] achieved international renown as an artist and a scientist.” He also attracted a sympathetic ally in railroad baron Leland Stanford (1824–93), who commissioned him to photograph a racehorse on the run to settle a bet as to whether a trotter ever has all four feet off the ground at the same time, thereby helping Muybridge become one of the most famous photographers of the day. One of many motion studies Muybridge conducted, the resulting sequence of photographs inspired other students of photography to press forward with the “zootropic” inventions that would soon thereafter yield the moving picture and thus Hollywood. Out of Stanford’s belief in bankrolling experimenters such as Muybridge, Solnit writes, came Stanford University, seedbed of Silicon Valley. Together, the entertainment and high-tech industries “changed the world . . . from a world of places and materials to a world of representations and information, a world of vastly greater reach and less solid grounding”—again, it seems, a perfectly California thing to do. Solnit does a fine job of placing Muybridge’s and Stanford’s contributions in the context of the other technological changes sweeping the world at the time, and of describing the role of photography in shaping late Victorians’ worldview and culture. She writes with considerable flair, her smart commentary illuminating the dozens of images that accompany her text.

A welcome contribution to the literature of photography and of California.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-670-03176-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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