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THE DRIVEWAY DIARIES

A DIRT ROAD ALMANAC

A sophisticated writer, like many before him, moves his family to Vermont and cranks out an elegy to the simple life. Not...

The British NPR essayist, living in the U.S. since 1973, moves to Vermont and evolves into a true old Down East philosopher.

The premise: an innocent writer buys a rustic plot. But don’t confuse this with the story about a naïve scribe who acquires country premises. Still, either way, page by page, the resolute author constructs a book of days from seven years of life at home in the land of homespun truth-seekers, the Green Mountain State. Present here is the requisite supporting cast of canny local service people, sharp merchants and loyal family. Early on, a scary hummingbird appears. And there are everyday matters like snow, of course, and ice, pollen, wasps, balky furniture, lawns as ecosystems and a dry well. Inventories of plants, rocks, rusting vehicles and floating clouds are fodder for down-to-earth musings in the boonies. Brookes (Guitara, p. 206, etc.), employing the solipsistic attention typical of the genre, wrestles manfully with nature, electrical wiring and a bit of bird’s-foot trefoil. The recurrent theme, however, is the driveway: the driveway down to the house, the driveway as historic artifact, the ecologic driveway, the taxonomy of driveways and the metaphysics of driveways. His driveway becomes a “kind of Advanced Vermont Living Test” that he’s bound to fail. Concluding the Sisyphean uphill battle with roadwork, Brookes gives over his penultimate chapter to words from the builder of his home that overlooks the verdant, self-regulating valley.

A sophisticated writer, like many before him, moves his family to Vermont and cranks out an elegy to the simple life. Not quite E.B. White among the chickens, but pleasant enough.

Pub Date: May 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-885586-33-7

Page Count: 233

Publisher: Turtle Point

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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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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