AT SEA IN THE CITY

NEW YORK FROM THE WATER’S EDGE

Revelatory and heart-gladdening.

An unhurried, knowledgeable tour of New York City’s waterfronts via catboat.

Kornblum (Sociology/CUNY) might make light of his sailing prowess, but he is intimately acquainted with the archipelago of New York. From City to Ellis and Liberty islands, but also to Prall’s, Shooters, and the Brothers, gloomy South and gloomier North, the author knows them all. In his 24-foot catboat, Tradition, he starts out from his homeport of Long Beach, sailing and puttering his way west along the barrier beach, up into Jamaica Bay, out into the Lower and then up into the Upper Bay, along the East River, and through Hell Gate. Along the way, Kornblum describes the act of sailing these waters (he has a gratifying number of boating fiascoes) and weaves his firsthand experiences into the historical narrative of his route. He has lots of good stories and background material, conveyed in a voice just scholarly enough to let you know he has done his research. But the tone is also personal; makes clear he has lived much of his understanding of the area. Kornblum will tell you why a prime piece of Rockaway beachfront is dune and grass rather than luxury condos (the reason isn’t pretty, nor is the way in which racism has shaped the look of the coastline); how waterways became the haunts of privateers, pirates, and today’s smugglers of human cargo; and all about sociological environs like the Irish Riviera, biological ones like Gateway (a national park “devoted to unheroic species”), and scary ones like the 1950s wetlands, “outside the law, and a good dumping ground for murdered gangsters and the hulks of stolen cars.” Few get to see the city from this angle, and Kornblum’s watery transit finds not only a past but perhaps even a future for New York City’s shoreline, with stirrings of restoration as natural habitats are allowed to regain their health.

Revelatory and heart-gladdening.

Pub Date: May 17, 2002

ISBN: 1-56512-265-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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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