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MY ADVENTURES WITH GOD

An uneven Hollywood memoir with a bit of divinity thrown in.

A tale of two Tobolowskys, divided by a positive midlife crisis.

In the author’s latest, ostensibly a memoir but difficult to characterize, prolific character actor Tobolowsky (The Dangerous Animals Club, 2012) revisits his past with an eye toward finding some order, and some religion, in the chaos. The first half of the book follows the author’s life from his childhood in Dallas to the heady years of his burgeoning acting career in the 1980s. In the second half, Tobolowsky focuses on people and concepts related, in some way or another, to his return to Judaism. The two halves are very different in tone, subject matter, and approach. The author’s banal account of his early career mirrors the sort of hedonistic life story one might expect from a baby boomer in the entertainment world: drugs, parties, and money (or the lack thereof) dominate many of the storylines. Readers will be only mildly amused by the time Tobolowsky quips, “do you know how hard it is to spend $800 a week on yourself when you are not buying cocaine? In 1985 dollars?” The concept of faith doesn’t figure largely in the author’s story until the mid-1990s and his rather sudden return to traditional Judaism. At this point, the memoir gains more gravity but also becomes less streamlined, turning from a TMZ–style tell-all to a collection of vignettes about faith, difficult decisions, and people important to him. To be sure, Tobolowsky includes some truly worthwhile stories, not the least of which is a lengthy treatment of an Auschwitz survivor he came to know and whose story he decided to share through film. The author succeeds as a writer in that his prose captures the imagination and keeps readers’ attention; as a memoir, however, the book is aimless, oddly structured, and only tangentially related to his supposed theme.

An uneven Hollywood memoir with a bit of divinity thrown in.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-6646-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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