The author alternates between inanity and hyperbole as he recycles Philip Wylie's fulminations and ancient Freudianisms to condemn what is at best, or worst, a disease of the upwardly mobile, middle-class nuclear family. There is nothing here we have not read about many times before, though perhaps never in such tedious and belabored fashion. The bogeywoman of Sebald's book is the other-directed housewife without sufficient outlet for her intelligence and energy; she dominates her husband (who is out there currying favor up the corporate ladder), and turns her male offspring into faggots, drug addicts, mindless, cult.following zombies, and suicides. Custom cannot wither her infinite variety of destructive ways: she's too protective, or too indulgent, or too bossy, or too smart, or too charming; she tries too hard or not hard enough. Only the magic presence of the Father can avert calamity--or, in his absence (as is the case of many ghetto families), a mother who isn't around very much, and who beats her kids when she is. That way, we presumably only get battered children or sociopaths. An hysterical book about the parent men love to hate best.