A revealing, though at times overly detailed, portrait.

A passionate defender of the poor and oppressed receives a full-length biography.

Poet, essayist, and editor Lola Ridge (1873-1941), born in Ireland, raised in New Zealand, and educated in Australia, made her mark in the United States beginning in 1907, when she became part of a burgeoning arts scene in San Francisco, and most significantly in New York, where she was a major literary figure. Svoboda (Tin God, 2013, etc.), a poet, fiction writer, translator, and Guggenheim Fellow, revives Ridge’s life in minute—sometimes fascinating, sometimes tedious—detail. Possibly because she was denied access to archival sources, Svoboda speculates about Ridge’s motivations, thinking, and assumptions: “perhaps,” “could have,” and “might have” recur so often that they become distracting. Although providing context is one of the author’s strengths, at times she overdoes it. For example, while recounting the time when Ridge deposited her 8-year-old son in an orphanage, where he remained for six years, Svoboda offers many examples of others who abandoned their children. Ridge’s admiration for Percy Bysshe Shelley generates a list of other admirers, including Oscar Wilde, Karl Marx, George Bernard Shaw, and Upton Sinclair. Ridge suffered from “an illness similar to T.B.,” leading Svoboda to note a handful of others in her circle who “spent enormous amounts of time in bed.” More relevant are capsule biographies of everyone Ridge knew: her friends Marianne Moore, novelists Evelyn Scott and Kay Boyle, activists Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman; Harold Loeb, who assigned Ridge as American editor of his literary magazine Broom; Jean Toomer, Robert McAlmon, Matthew Josephson, and scores more. Svoboda’s close reading of Ridge’s poetry supports Boyle’s assessment that Ridge “expressed a fiery awareness of social injustice” in “a woman’s savage voice.” Anorexic, living in self-imposed poverty, uncompromising, and strong-willed, Ridge merged the political and the literary as she helped to shape modernist aesthetics.

A revealing, though at times overly detailed, portrait.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-936182-96-1

Page Count: 648

Publisher: Schaffner Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015


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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