An absorbing memoir perfectly complemented by exquisite art.



In this autobiography, a man recounts his turbulent life—from his immersion in the 1960s and ’70s drug culture to his more serene practice of Chinese qi gong.

Du Cane’s (Wild Boy, 2017, etc.) account comes in the form of short stories or anecdotes. As the author divides them by topic (drugs, accidents, etc.), they’re not chronological but are easy to follow. The author’s life got off to a rocky start, as his umbilical cord nearly strangled him. He recounts this with his recurrent, understated humor, noting his mother’s claim decades later that baby John “gave her a furious, accusatory glare.” Throughout his teens and 20s, Du Cane was a movie critic and filmmaker and regularly in the company of musicians or artists from the underground cinema. He also dabbled in drugs, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes not, such as the time someone spiked his tea with acid. Later in life, he sought enlightenment in India, became a tai chi practitioner, and attended or organized qi gong retreats. The author, in the book’s final section, rather fittingly discusses deaths, particularly those of his parents. His collection of tales ranges from unsettling (a friend’s blasé murder confession) to humorous (Du Cane invested in Christmas Evil, a holiday-themed horror film, and, years later, mistakenly believed 1985’s Silent Night, Deadly Night was the result). Some of the recollections are even endearing. One instance stemmed from the author’s review of a movie featuring a killer “dwarf.” The actor who portrayed the character angrily confronted Du Cane about his apparently insensitive phrasing only for the two to share a friendly drink afterward. This is a refurbished version of the author’s earlier Wild Boy book, this time bolstered by debut illustrator Tondora’s vibrant artwork. As a writer, Du Cane is concise, resulting in brief stories and an overall succinct memoir. His smooth, frank prose is engaging: “I am at best a poorish windsurfer, with scant skills and not much nautical sense to back it up. So, when the tides and the sudden gusts conspired to strand me far from the rocky shore, I ended up dismasting, lying on the board and paddling.” Accordingly, he neither condemns nor condones his occasional illicit behavior but rather allows his experiences to speak for themselves. For example, as a teenager, he smoked dope with strangers and became violently ill. During his stupor, one man raped him until Du Cane managed to flee, left with a lingering sense of vulnerability. The illustrations accompanying certain stories are striking and indelible. While some are graphic-novel style, others veer in entirely different directions. In the case of Du Cane’s birth, Tondora’s work is convincingly akin to Japanese erotic art while an image spotlighting Lou Reed resembles stained glass. Perhaps her most superlative effort here is the pastel-shaded, psychedelic rendering of Du Cane’s tale of a staggering, possibly hallucinogenic cocaine episode. The book’s potent design, which packs the pages with collages, often incorporates both the author’s words and Tondora’s pictures, showcasing the solid fusion of the two. 

An absorbing memoir perfectly complemented by exquisite art. 

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73419-440-1

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Du Cane Media

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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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