Detailed, objective, and valuable. (b&w photos)

Lenny Bruce’s career was a rhapsody in blue material. His comedy made him a master of free speech; his death sanctified him. Here, two thoughtful lawyers explore in depth some of the comic’s tribulations and trials.

There’s not much about the man himself. (For straight biography, readers should go back to Albert Goldman’s controversial Ladies and Gentlemen: Lenny Bruce!, 1974.) This is, rather, an exhaustive study of the comedian’s obscenity trials. The legendary prosecutions for dispensing dirty words a generation ago is the topic of discussion. It’s a narrative of how a hipster who worked with junkie jazz bands and hooker strippers became a defender of the Constitution simply by repeating common words for body parts, excreta, and sexual activity. His misdemeanor trials were widely—and inaccurately—reported. The authors set the record straight from the first arrest in San Francisco in 1961. Arrests followed across the country, culminating with the most hotly contested trial in New York. By 1970, the case against Bruce’s co-defendant (operator of the club where he uttered the words) was overturned. But it was too late for Bruce. He died more than three years before of a morphine overdose, booked, it seemed, more frequently in police stations than into clubs, sick, bankrupt, and killed, some said, by the law. The application of the law by both prosecution and defense is deconstructed even-handedly. The major problem may have been the defendant, who fancied himself a legal expert. Playing a shtarker Jewish lawyer, Lenny communicated improperly with judges, missed court dates, dismissed counsel. He wanted to do his act in court; judges wanted to wash his mouth with soap. Today, Bruce is venerated not because he worked blue or talked trash, but because he was truly funny and, more importantly, because he offered honest, seminal social commentary. An audio CD is included so readers may hear, among redundant exposition, the comedian himself, spritzing and killing at top speed.

Detailed, objective, and valuable. (b&w photos)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-57071-986-1

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002


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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