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A self-deprecating remembrance that’s hampered by unsubtle humor.

A young Jewish boy trips painfully through his midcentury childhood in this debut memoir.

Kagan describes himself as an overweight, magic-trick-performing, clarinet-playing, comedy-loving middle child in this reminiscence. He was raised in a Jewish family in Dallas, Texas, during the 1950s and ’60s, and his upbringing is reminiscent of the narrator’s in the 1983 film A Christmas Story (itself based on author Jean Shepherd’s 1966 novel In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash); for example, Kagan tells of trying to keep his parents ignorant of his classroom antics while begging them for a Red Rider BB gun. He recounts various episodes, such as when he accidentally burned down the family’s toolshed while pretending to be the Lone Ranger, and when his friend Melvin Schliffstein shot him in the eye with a peanut from a slingshot. Another story recounts how the 11-year-old author discovered masturbation and was terrified that his parents were about to give him a sex talk; instead, they informed him that it was “time for us to tell you all about what it means to be Jewish.” He later recalls being asked by a girl in middle school if he’d ever gotten past first base, quipping that “my physique resembled a bag of bats, balls, and bases versus those who actually hit and ran the bases.” Male readers who came of age during the same time period will relate to many of the author’s reminiscences. Kagan is a natural, energetic storyteller, and his tales have a solid sense of structure. Unfortunately, their humor is often overly broad and dated—think Billy Crystal’s work, but with more of a fondness for grossness. Kagan appears highly amused by his book’s title, and he gets plenty of mileage out of it; his Reader’s Guide begins, “I’m so honored your book club has gotten into My Shorts, as odd as that may sound!” The overall result is a fairly familiar series of awkward anecdotes about a horny teenage boy and his overbearing relations, which won’t be to everyone’s taste.

A self-deprecating remembrance that’s hampered by unsubtle humor.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73400-030-6

Page Count: 199

Publisher: BLynk Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2020

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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