KNOWN AND STRANGE THINGS

ESSAYS

A bold, honest, and controversially necessary read.

A striking collection of essays that will leave readers wanting to reimagine our contemporary environment.

In his first work of nonfiction, Cole (Every Day Is for the Thief, 2015, etc.) crafts an anthological book of reflections divided into four parts: “Reading Things,” “Seeing Things,” “Being Here,” and “Epilogue.” Without much warning, readers are immediately thrown into the current issues that punctuate the news, social media, and the literary community. Acclaimed as both photographer and art theorist, Cole uses short essays to communicate fundamental ideas about his craft: “a photograph is…a little machine of ironies that contains within it a number of oppositions: light and dark, memory and forgetting, ethics and injustice, permanence and evanescence.” The author discusses James Baldwin and Jacques Derrida, and he analyzes the works of various photographers and poets throughout the years. The result is a compilation of essays that call to mind what Walter Benjamin did in his Illuminations: taking cultural works and applying them critically and politically to the now. “The black body comes prejudged, and as a result it is placed in needless jeopardy,” writes Cole. In fact, questions of race identity and justice are paramount for the author. “History won’t let go of us,” he writes. “We’re pinned to it.” What’s clear is that Cole perseveres in breaking away from historical tropes, offering to his readers differing perspectives that emerge from wide-ranging areas of study. “What always interests me—indeed obsesses me—is the way we engage in history,” he writes. “Except there is no ‘we.’ Americans do it differently and, often, irresponsibly and without particular interest.” Moments like these will make American readers stop to think, question the population they belong to, and find ways to make it better. The hope that Cole infuses in his prose is mirrored with poetically entrancing sentences: “We are not mayflies. We have known afternoons, and we live day after day for a great many days.”

A bold, honest, and controversially necessary read.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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