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THE MEMOIRS OF A BEAUTIFUL BOY

Extravagantly solipsistic.

Hothouse recollections of growing up gay.

Now 27 and a creative-writing teacher in the New York City public schools, the author was reared in Petunia, Texas. Abandoned by his father on the family ranch with just a Jaguar convertible for transportation, Mother took young Robert to Nieman Marcus in nearby Houston every Saturday to get their hair and nails styled. Mother, a unique personality as her son remembers her, was more luridly glitzy than Mame and more maliciously avaricious. (Her favorite movie: Breakfast at Tiffany’s.) Early on, young Robert displayed a heightened sensitivity superior to those of his drab neighbors in their dreary houses. He made clever comments regarding gents in tacky sans-a-belt pants. He was partial to Liza Minnelli, Dina Merrill and—though he was surely prettier—Lillian Hellman. Clearly, here was the next Capote. Despite those Neiman Marcus Saturdays, his gay leanings were apparently unknown to Robert until, at 17 and still in high school, he met dancer Michael, the love of his life. (The couple now lives in New York). The author’s slightly histrionic recollections contain over-the-top set pieces regarding his evangelical school, Mother’s hair treatment (she winds up with a cheap wig glued to her bald head) and her impromptu boob and lip augmentations. The text is lush with simile, verdant with metaphor and generally permeated with writerly flair. Though the author calls it a memoir, it reads more like a comic novel with considerable theatrical panache. Addressing his readers as “mes petites,” the beautiful boy frequently seems to speak to a special audience.

Extravagantly solipsistic.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36168-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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