Sofronski’s life story would be sad if it weren’t so funny—or vice versa.

OLD, GAY & FABULOUS

A fizzy, champagne-laced cocktail of a memoir—with more than a dash of bitters—by a septuagenarian New Yorker.

Born in 1938, Sofronski has, according to this sprawling yet slender book, most certainly been there and done that. While pursuing an acting career that culminated in a memorable, if star-killing, cameo in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, Sofronski built a business as a court reporter, lived the glamorous life of a pretty, professional homosexual in cities here and abroad, used and abused the standard substances and somehow managed to survive the Army, the Swinging ’60s, the sexual revolution, AIDS and finally 9/11. With minor variations, it’s a familiar story to anyone who has read authors such as Andrew Holloran, Edmund White or Alan Hollinghurst, or been to a party where some aging auntie was holding forth at her brittle best. Such glitz aside, the most compelling stories in Sofronski’s book are separated by many decades. His fascinating memories of life as a young gay man growing up in a troubled family are almost unbelievably deadpan and engaging—even as he recounts anecdotes of molestation by his gym coach or humiliation at the hands of teachers and other children. Even more poignant are tales of his butch, alcoholic mother—a tough lesbian in post-World War II Pennsylvania—swapping her leather jacket for a dress to see Sofronski at a school function, caring for her secret lover (an abused neighbor) or going deep-sea fishing with “the girls.” Flash-forward to the present and Sofronski’s dry-eyed account of being old, gay and alone—and, to many, invisible—is the stuff that great theatrical monologues are made of, a la Quentin Crisp, Elaine Stritch or other such famous survivors. But finally, it’s all just too fabulous—especially for its being true—and Sofroski’s contentious asides about how Roy Cohn got a raw deal or that “Puerto Rican sissies” killed the downtown bathhouse scene make even Larry Kramer seem populist and inclusive.

Sofronski’s life story would be sad if it weren’t so funny—or vice versa.

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456565787

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2011

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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...

NIGHT

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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