A satisfying journey into the depths of hard-heartedness and the struggle to heal an old wound.

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COCAINE'S SON

A MEMOIR

A son's attempt to salvage a relationship with his cocaine-addict father.

New York Times culture reporter Itzkoff (Lads: A Memoir of Manhood, 2004) explores the complications of forgiving a man who may have deserved no second chances. As a boy, the author viewed his father as an ally in the fight against Hebrew School, but he soon realized that these minor heroics did little to make up for his mysterious absences. Though he was unable to discern his father's secret, Itzkoff’s mother revealed the truth: “He's a drug addict, Davey,” she informed him. “He's been addicted to cocaine almost your whole life.” Years passed, though the author continued to struggle to understand his abnormal familial circumstances. While in college, Itzkoff paid a rare visit to his father's office and saw a display of family photos that he deemed incapable of telling the “complete story of a family.” The author’s memoir picks up where the “profoundly untrue” display left off, offering a front-row seat to his father's addiction. Yet despite witnessing his father at his worst—“all that remained in the room were a few rolled-up dollar bills on a nightstand, a glossy porno magazine on the floor, and a frightened old man shivering on the bed, his nostrils cemented shut with a mixture of blood and mucus, his eyelids sealed closed by some bodily fluid whose origins I couldn’t even guess at”—the author also became a drug user, experimenting primarily with marijuana, though he tried cocaine as well. Itzkoff’s sheepish admission of personal guilt removes the possibility of a moral high ground, and to the book's benefit, levels the playing field, allowing both father and son to face their struggles together. The pair attempted to overcome their obstacles by attending joint therapy, utilizing their drug use as common ground for a fresh start. But after the therapy proved unsuccessful, Itzkoff made one final attempt at reconciliation—this time, simply by listening to his father's painful tale from start to finish and beginning the slow work of righting the wrongs of the past.

A satisfying journey into the depths of hard-heartedness and the struggle to heal an old wound.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6572-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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