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“I never wanted to go to war,” he concludes. “And the war, I realize, will never end.” A welcome summation of Bass’s work to...

A nuanced blend of autobiography and environmental advocacy by the well-known novelist and short-story writer.

Bass (The Lives of Rocks, 2006, etc.) laments that the hard work of saving his home turf, the Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, has kept him from novel and short-story writing. “I used to be a fiction writer,” he says. “I loved that craft, that calling. I’ve had to all but abandon it, to speak out instead for another thing I love now just as much as language—the woods. These woods.” But that’s getting ahead of the story a touch, which opens with his discovery of that remarkable landscape, at 1,300 feet a comparative lowland against the nearby Rocky Mountains, its geological history accounting for its extraordinarily dense and diverse carpet of all-devouring greenery. That quality, Bass writes, reminded him and his wife instantly of their native South, where he had been working as a geologist for years while plotting an escape to some undiscovered paradise. Topping a mountain pass and looking down at the Yaak was love at first sight, and much of Bass’s nonfiction work of late has constituted a song of love for that land. He will turn away some environmentalist allies by his defense of hunting, which is modest and well reasoned: “In the Yaak, everything eats meat and everything is in motion, either seeking its quarry or seeking to keep from becoming quarry.” Against a local economy that is extractive and colonial—nearby Libby being ground zero for a particularly deadly form of environmental destruction—Bass’s willingness to live on renewable resources he has to work for is refreshing, even as he acknowledges the “impurity” attendant in being a human in a time of ecological crisis.

“I never wanted to go to war,” he concludes. “And the war, I realize, will never end.” A welcome summation of Bass’s work to date, and a call for action.

Pub Date: July 3, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-59675-1

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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