PIECES OF MY HEART

A LIFE

A diverting meander through a life in showbiz.

The handsome actor reminisces about the passing of a more glamorous Hollywood, settles some old scores and examines his passionate relationship with Natalie Wood.

Perhaps best known for his role as the suave, mystery-solving millionaire on the TV series Hart to Hart, Wagner grew up struggling to please his distant, disapproving father. As a young actor, he was drawn to an older generation of male stars, idolizing and befriending the likes of James Cagney and Clark Gable in a bid for more congenial paternal lights to steer by. This identification with an older style of movie glamour slightly marginalized Wagner as the Method propelled intense, mumbling actors like James Dean and Paul Newman to superstardom, leaving him to flounder in a series of forgettable, lightweight parts. The preternaturally good-looking young man still managed to enjoy himself, cutting a mighty swath through hordes of hopeful starlets and not a few more mature actresses, including a memorable layover with the sultry Yvonne De Carlo. Wagner recounts these adventures in surprisingly salty detail, which is great fun. Less fun are his gripes about producers’ and directors’ unfairness or incompetence, tales of real-estate deals, anecdotes about children and the like, which will tax the patience of even the most generous reader. Fortunately, he provides much more gripping material concerning his stormy relationship with Wood. They were one of the original celebrity couples: Married in 1957, separated in 1961 and divorced a year later, they remarried in 1972 and were still together when she tragically drowned in a 1981 boating accident that has invited morbid speculation for decades. Wagner is open about the emotional torment he suffered during their separation, confessing to murderous feelings toward Warren Beatty, Wood’s post-divorce boyfriend. His account of the fateful boat trip, which included a protracted, nearly violent argument between Wagner and eccentric actor Christopher Walken, delivers a mesmerizing sense of queasy fatefulness.

A diverting meander through a life in showbiz.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-06-137331-2

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2008

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

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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