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Despite a lack of evidence proving cause and effect, Egginton’s well-informed history of 16th-century Spanish life,...

A celebration of a beloved novel and its innovative author.

Commemorating the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death, Egginton (German and Romance Languages and Literature/Johns Hopkins Univ.; In Defense of Religious Moderation, 2011, etc.) makes a bold argument for the Spanish author’s importance: that in Don Quixote, he invented fiction, a genre distinct from history or poetry that creates the experience of “different worlds and perspectives” and generates emotions about characters “that feel real.” This novel, writes Egginton, was so new and influential that it changed the way readers viewed themselves and the world. Like Ilan Stavans’ recent Quixote (2015), Egginton asserts that the book was hugely popular in its own time and after, heralded by scores of major writers throughout the past four centuries—e.g., Goethe, Schiller, Flaubert, Faulkner, and Kundera. Thomas Jefferson used it to teach himself Spanish. Nevertheless, evidence that it has been read and praised does not prove how it transformed those readers and served as “the first sign of a truly modern consciousness.” Here, Egginton resorts to speculation, as he does in piecing together biographical details of Cervantes’ life. The book is filled with what the Spaniard “must have” felt or “could have” experienced. Troublesome also is the slippery term “modern.” Modern fiction, the author asserts, “allows for the reader’s identification and sympathies to shift between opposing viewpoints” and to get “a privileged view” into the consciousness and emotions of a character. According to Egginton, Cervantes taught readers “that we can play roles without believing in them” and demonstrated the difference “between what a person seems to be on the outside and what he or she feels or thinks on the inside.”

Despite a lack of evidence proving cause and effect, Egginton’s well-informed history of 16th-century Spanish life, politics, and culture makes for an engrossing read. He need not have insisted on sweeping claims for Cervantes’ mind-changing influence.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62040-175-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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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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