An earnest book with idealistic intent but its proposals lack the detail they need to be widely embraced.

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Yield for Oncoming Greatness

CAPPING CAPITALISM

Tabrizi, in his debut nonfiction work, offers high-level proposals for how to improve the country.

Early on, the author, an Iranian immigrant, describes an experience he had after 9/11. When an annoyed flight attendant coldly told him that she could get him removed from the plane, he realized that she had the power to ruin his life: “This is a state of suspicion and paranoia rather than a state of democracy and freedom,” he thought. The book loses this personal tone, however, when the author begins to share his broad proposals to fix the nation’s ills. His first suggestion is a “Financial Transparency Service,” staffed by volunteers, which would produce a website with graphic reports of the profit and loss statements and balance sheets of every nonprofit and government contractor in the country. (Here, as elsewhere, he leaves unanswered questions, such as what would happen if the service couldn’t find enough qualified volunteers.) Next, he says, he would start a “Freedom Watch” group, staffed by peer-selected, unpaid experts, including CPAs, economists, scientists, and physicians. Freedom Watch subgroups would assign red, yellow, or green flags to various broad topics, such as global warming or stem cell research, to signal problems that need resolution. Any candidates for office, Tabrizi says, would have to state his or her opinion on every Freedom Watch issue, in the form of a “yes,” “no,” or “pass.” This is a big idea, yet the author covers it in less than three pages. Indeed, an overall lack of detail and an absence of practical descriptions of how ideas would work are the book’s main shortcomings. The author’s other ideas include limiting advertisements for certain items, including prescription drugs; requiring voter identification; insisting that all presidential candidates must be third-generation Americans; requiring Spanish as a second language; ending high school in 10th grade; and legalizing soft drugs and prostitution. Some of these notions do have widespread appeal, and Tabrizi helpfully points readers to organizations that are already doing advocacy work on such issues as popular-vote presidential election. However, he doesn’t anticipate or address skeptics’ concerns—including how his ideas might pass the U.S. Congress.

An earnest book with idealistic intent but its proposals lack the detail they need to be widely embraced.

Pub Date: May 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0996210003

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Thinking Hat Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

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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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Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.

A MILLION LITTLE PIECES

Frey’s lacerating, intimate debut chronicles his recovery from multiple addictions with adrenal rage and sprawling prose.

After ten years of alcoholism and three years of crack addiction, the 23-year-old author awakens from a blackout aboard a Chicago-bound airplane, “covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood.” While intoxicated, he learns, he had fallen from a fire escape and damaged his teeth and face. His family persuades him to enter a Minnesota clinic, described as “the oldest Residential Drug and Alcohol Facility in the World.” Frey’s enormous alcohol habit, combined with his use of “Cocaine . . . Pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP and glue,” make this a very rough ride, with the DTs quickly setting in: “The bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them.” Frey captures with often discomforting acuity the daily grind and painful reacquaintance with human sensation that occur in long-term detox; for example, he must undergo reconstructive dental surgery without anesthetic, an ordeal rendered in excruciating detail. Very gradually, he confronts the “demons” that compelled him towards epic chemical abuse, although it takes him longer to recognize his own culpability in self-destructive acts. He effectively portrays the volatile yet loyal relationships of people in recovery as he forms bonds with a damaged young woman, an addicted mobster, and an alcoholic judge. Although he rejects the familiar 12-step program of AA, he finds strength in the principles of Taoism and (somewhat to his surprise) in the unflinching support of family, friends, and therapists, who help him avoid a relapse. Our acerbic narrator conveys urgency and youthful spirit with an angry, clinical tone and some initially off-putting prose tics—irregular paragraph breaks, unpunctuated dialogue, scattered capitalization, few commas—that ultimately create striking accruals of verisimilitude and plausible human portraits.

Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set.

Pub Date: April 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50775-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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