A candid, unsettling family portrait of madness and enduring love.


A daughter grows up in the whirlwind of her overbearing father.

Once misdiagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Lott (Creative Writing/Antioch Univ., Los Angeles; In Session: The Bond Between Women and Their Therapists, 1999) recounts growing up with a father whose craziness seemed infectious. “My father and I were not ordinary,” writes the author; “oh no, we had formed an alliance around being extraordinary.” In Lott’s noisily dysfunctional family, she and her father, Ira, bonded against her mother and brothers, who thought Ira was irritating, infuriating, and more than a little eccentric. Ira coveted his daughter’s attentions, making her his confidante, flattering her looks and talent. She was a genius, he insisted, and he would gain fame and fortune as the genius father of a child prodigy. Lott adored him, even when he treated her “like an adult playmate, like a collaborator.” She refused to see him as others did: a bizarre neurotic. Usually wearing nothing but underwear, Ira was a jokester, an exhibitionist, and a narcissist who hogged the center of attention. He was also a hypochondriac, intensely focused on what he thought were symptoms of dire diseases and hypersensitive “to any minor shift in the environment.” While Ira complained with “operatic intensity” about various physical ailments, the children strived to get their mother’s attention by complaining even more loudly: of severe allergic reactions, mysterious rashes, and rare strains of salmonella, despite Ira’s “relentless attempts to protect us from food poisoning.” Ira did have some serious health problems, including asthma, borderline diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity; through the years, he became addicted to painkillers and sleeping pills, supplied by “a sympathetic and equally addicted local pharmacist.” After his mother died, Ira descended into depression, refusing to shower, shave, get dressed, work, or eat anything but “soft foods suitable to a toddler’s palate.” He became obsessed with death and dying, and since Lott was viscerally in tune to his needs, she became obsessed, too, pushed almost to the brink of sanity.

A candid, unsettling family portrait of madness and enduring love.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59709-815-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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 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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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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