BOY ON A STRING by Joseph Jacoby


From Cast-Off Kid to Filmmaker Through the Magic of Dreams
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The path from abandoned son to noted movie director.

Jacoby’s memoir begins with his mother being carted off, à la Blanche DuBois, to a mental ward. All the expected details of a vagabond childhood are here: foster-home pinball, stern social workers and the shroud of secrecy the boy felt forced to cast around himself. The one constant in his life was television. Jacoby’s talent for performance led him to NYU, where he became a cohort of Martin Scorsese (who provides an introduction) and worked odd television jobs. Through sheer will, the cast-off kid made a sexploitation flick, a personal indie film, and then . . . well, it’s unclear, really. Jacoby seems less than passionate about his creative products. His excitement lies in his telling of a destitute, unsupported boy who was able to make his way in the world. Readers too will be more moved by Jacoby’s flouting of the experts’ predictions that he would wind up “dead, on drugs, or in jail” than by the professional achievements he describes in rather dull terms. His triumph over adversity is certainly worthy of admiration, yet his memoir is ultimately frustrating, offering little payoff for slogging through passages of repetitive musings about his life philosophy (variations of “make it up as you go along”) and scattered, random details (for a filmmaker, Jacoby has a rather undeveloped sense of pacing). The author offers little information about his relationships with others and leaves no indication of where he is now; his final chapters seem like afterthoughts.

If only Jacoby’s account of his career were as gripping as his heart-wrenching personal story.

Pub Date: March 16th, 2006
ISBN: 0-7867-1711-4
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2006