An accessible, dramatic narrative of brain damage and its toll on caregivers that deserves a broad readership.

He Never Liked Cake

Leyde’s debut takes readers on a painful, funny and shocking journey through her family’s life after her father suffers brain damage and exhibits a drastically altered personality.

In 1996, when she was 14, Pennsylvania-born author Leyde’s father, John, survived a car wreck that violently whipped his head into the windshield. The author had seen the 1991 movie Regarding Henry, in which a bullet in the head transforms a coldblooded yuppie into a gentle family man, but reality didn’t have a Hollywood happy ending. Before his traumatic brain injury, John Leyde was a water- and snow-skiing enthusiast, avid photographer, recreational marijuana smoker and mellow dad in the mold of his hero, the musician Jimmy Buffett. But after he emerged from hospitalization, he lacked most of his long-term memories and executive mental functions; he was an uncoordinated, impulsive drug addict/alcoholic. He became an alternately angry and apathetic layabout, but he still remained a Jimmy Buffett fan; indeed, one of the achingly few times his daughter saw her beloved father’s old personality resurface was while he was listening to Buffett sing. The narrative is divided between John’s chronic misbehavior (and its soul-wearying effect on his wife, Claudia, the author’s mother) and the author’s own coming-of-age as a teen juggling various boyfriends and, later, as a journalism graduate roller-coastering around the NYC magazine scene with her friends. Bad news from Pennsylvania repeatedly drags Janna back into her father’s drama. At one point, she announces to the long-suffering Claudia her plans to write a book about John, and periodic diary excerpts tip us off that this is that book—making it, in part, an act of therapeutic catharsis. But if this is a product of crisis-related journaling, it’s a specimen of the highest order—a hard-to-put-down inquiry on the extremes of love and family.

An accessible, dramatic narrative of brain damage and its toll on caregivers that deserves a broad readership.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2013

ISBN: 978-1452568287

Page Count: 380

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2013

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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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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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