HIDING MAN

A BIOGRAPHY OF DONALD BARTHELME

Uses a spatula to apply icing rather than a blade to slice and reveal.

The author of Snow White and numerous other postmodern classics gets a generous biography from a former student.

Though well researched, this is an old-fashioned, fond celebration rather than a dispassionate analysis of Donald Barthelme’s life (1931–89). Novelist Daugherty (English and Creative Writing/Oregon State Univ.; Late in the Standoff, 2005, etc.) begins and ends with appreciative, affecting memories of his encounters with Barthelme during the 1980s, first as professor and grad student at the University of Houston, then as friends. The pages in between take a traditional look at a most unusual man and writer. Daugherty sketches the family’s history in Texas, spending considerable time on the substantial architectural career of Barthelme’s father, also named Donald. The biographer then glances at young Don’s childhood and early manhood, noting numerous Oedipal conflicts that would crop up again. He points to the influences of Thurber and Perelman and the New Yorker, which later gave Barthelme his biggest break and most frequent exposure—though fiction editor Roger Angell never let his championship of the writer keep him from rejecting work he considered inferior. Daugherty usefully explores his subject’s considerable background and expertise in the visual arts; Barthelme managed a Houston museum for a time and worked on an art magazine in New York. Married three times, he remained on genial terms with wives one and two, sired two daughters and loved women till throat cancer ended it all. He drank a lot too, and his biographer seems to see booze more as a creative lubricant than a smiling but bitter enemy. Barthelme enjoyed positive reviews until near the end of his life, when he left New York and returned to teach at the University of Houston, where the author avers he was treated as the great celebrity he indeed was in the literary world. Daugherty loves Barthelme’s fiction, seldom uttering a discouraging word, and views his subject with affectionate, grateful eyes.

Uses a spatula to apply icing rather than a blade to slice and reveal.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-312-37868-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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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