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A contemplative, lyrical, splendid collection.

Essays and musings considering the elusive and evocative idea of perfection.

In these tender, elegant essays, poet and Sarabande Books president Gorham (Bad Daughter, 2011, etc.) explores cultural, personal and philosophical meanings of the “slippery term” perfect. Ten short pieces consider such topics as “Perfect Tea” (Twinings Irish Breakfast, prepared in a microwave), “Perfect Sleep” (morphine-induced, following a C-section) and “Perfect Conversation” (fulfilling the definition of perfection as “That which has attained its purpose”): “I love you,” “I love you too.” A dozen longer essays elaborate on “the many permutations of this most hermetic and exalted concept” in the author’s life. In “Moving Horizontal,” a four-story Victorian, which had served the family perfectly as Gorham’s children grew up, suddenly feels claustrophobic; more perfect for a couple’s empty nest is an open-plan modern house, filled not with souvenirs but with light. “The Changeling” is Gorham’s sister, born microcephalic, who becomes the center of the family’s life: Her mother embraced her role as an activist for the handicapped; her father sold lemonade to raise funds; a sister volunteered at state institutions. “Beckie was our wabi,” writes the author, “the distinctive flaw that made our family an exquisite paragon. This Japanese concept, with its sister sabi, guides us with three important principles: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” Gorham’s marriage surely was not perfect: “A Drinker’s Guide to The Cat in the Hat” juxtaposes the chaos wrought by Dr. Seuss’ wily protagonist with the impact of her husband’s alcoholism on the family. Wary after he underwent treatment, the author likens the possibility of his relapse to the cat, looming menacingly outside the family’s windows, “Raring to go and ready for FUN.” Fear during a daughter’s life-threatening illness, grief over her mother’s death, nostalgia for family gatherings in summers past: All lead Gorham to consider how perfection is interlaced with pain, desire and even sin.

A contemplative, lyrical, splendid collection.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8203-4712-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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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