Christgau indicates from the start that he is “hardly self-effacing in print,” but anyone who borrows his subtitle from...

A veteran rock critic takes readers deeper into the recesses of his thought processes than many might wish to venture.

Even more than most memoirs, this is a book that only its author could write. As the self-anointed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” Christgau (Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s, 2000, etc.) could have written about the seismic cultural changes he has observed and analyzed; or about how rock music, originally dismissed as kids’ stuff, gave him a career he has never outgrown, a vocation that didn’t exist before he began writing seriously about rock and popular culture during the mid-1960s; or about the progression of the music (he goes deepest here into New York punk and hip-hop); or about the changes in journalism or the proliferation of cultural criticism (and celebrity journalism). Christgau does touch those bases, fleetingly, but any number of other writers could explore those areas. What no one else could write about in such detail are the author’s IQ, childhood memories, romantic relationships and sex life. And no one but a critic—and this critic in particular—would write like this about the woman he would marry: “Sex was hot, crucial and engrossing, but not simple—she was pickier and more changeable than I was used to in hot relationships, and my faulty pleasure receptors, while not impinging on my performance quote unquote, generated emotional disconnects as they gradually righted themselves.” As his work for a variety of publications confirms, he is a provocative and perceptive critic and, by all accounts (including his own), a good editor. But his focus here is so narrowly self-absorbed that the most engaged readers will not be those who care most about the culture at large but his journalistic colleagues and contemporaries, who will want to see how they are treated and what scores he settles.

Christgau indicates from the start that he is “hardly self-effacing in print,” but anyone who borrows his subtitle from James Joyce would never be accused of false humility.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-223879-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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