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Although Crawford modestly claims that his biography is neither “official” nor definitive, it is unlikely to be surpassed.

A masterful biography of the canonical modernist.

In this first of a proposed two-volume life of T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), Crawford (Modern Scottish Literature/Univ. of St. Andrews; On Glasgow and Edinburgh, 2013, etc.) examines the poet’s youth and early career, ending with the publication of The Waste Land in 1922. Drawing on sources not available to previous biographers, the author fashions an authoritative, nuanced portrait. Eliot was the seventh child of a wealthy St. Louis family whose provincialism he was determined to escape. Drawn to poetry even as a teenager, he fell into “an intense engagement” with the 19th-century Romantics. At Harvard, where he was a mediocre student, he discovered the French symbolists, especially Jules Laforgue, whose poems possessed “a compulsively insinuating music” that Eliot began to imitate. Not surprisingly, he yearned to go to Paris, a plan his doting, overprotective mother sternly discouraged. Nevertheless, in 1910, Eliot sailed for Europe, enrolling in classes with the groundbreaking sociologist Emile Durkheim, psychologist Pierre Janet and philosopher Henri Bergson, thinkers who stimulated Eliot’s ideas “about the intersection between religious mysticism, asceticism, and hysteria in ‘primitive’ and modern life.” In 1914, he again left America, this time for a year at Oxford that proved life-changing: He met Ezra Pound, who responded to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” with exuberant praise. Pound opened doors, and by 1920, married, living in London, editing and reviewing while working full-time at a bank, Eliot had become “one of the best networked younger figures in London literary publishing.” Crawford illuminates Eliot’s tormented first marriage to the volatile Vivienne Haigh-Wood; his complicated relationships with Bertrand Russell and Virginia Woolf; and his struggle to find an American publisher. Most crucially, he explores the swirling aesthetic and philosophical forces that shaped Eliot’s startling poetry.

Although Crawford modestly claims that his biography is neither “official” nor definitive, it is unlikely to be surpassed.

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-27944-8

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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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