A disquieting, uneven read, but one that’s ultimately optimistic.

I Slept With And Divorced My Devils

ARISING AND RECOVERING FROM A DEEP DESCENT INTO HELL

A dysfunctional childhood leads to bad relationships and personally destructive behavior in this debut memoir that chronicles the author’s search for self-respect, love, and stability.

It’s been a rocky road for Rozeau. During his childhood, he says, he and his siblings were little valued, emotionally and physically abused, and scorned by an unforgiving extended family. As a result, despite his professional success in the Canadian military police, he remained walled off from interpersonal relationships. Hurt and anger spill from almost every page of this recollection, reflecting emotions that have apparently been simmering for decades. The titular devils are the two women with whom the author had relationships in 2006 and 2013. The first is the mother of his young daughter; the second, he allowed himself to love. But both relationships, he says, became toxic. The first woman, he says, filed falsified charges of domestic abuse against him and attempted to keep him from his daughter; the lengthy legal battle that ensued nearly wiped him out financially, and the thought of losing his daughter drove him to consider suicide. The other, he says, was a skillful liar who consistently cheated on him, yet he says that he found it almost impossible to completely break ties with her, due to his need for validation and companionship. His daughter, however, remains the true light of his life, and he writes of her with total joy and devotion. For her, he says, he threw himself into intensive therapy and began the journey of self-discovery. This memoir is no small part of that process, and it’s a cathartic expulsion of grievances and self-recriminations. Born and raised in Montreal, Rozeau didn’t learn to speak English until 2005, when he was 26 years old, so it’s an impressive achievement that he’s written this volume in his adopted language. However, the text would likely have benefited from stronger editing to cut down on linguistic errors and content repetition. Although the small quirks in phraseology are fine, even additive, the erratic grammatical errors are confusing and disruptive to the flow of the overall narrative.

A disquieting, uneven read, but one that’s ultimately optimistic.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4602-6832-2

Page Count: 228

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2016

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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