An engaging and often darkly funny memoir. Life begins at 40 for the author, who got a late start on adulthood and had a...

HOW TO GROW UP

A MEMOIR

A memoir about how sobriety helped a recovering alcoholic belatedly become an adult.

Title aside, this isn’t a how-to book but more of a cautionary tale. As Tea (Valencia2008, etc.) writes, “I am someone whose path to adulthood is not a clear A to B, a straight line through life. My life is more like A, B, back to A, but it’s a different A this time, and now B looks so different from my time back at A—and whoa, here’s C, what a trip! I’m a grown-up!” It’s a life that has encompassed marriage to a woman after a life of often passionate, frequently misguided relationships with much younger men; of finding a place of her own after living in party houses; of teaching writing in college though she never graduated; of earning a living through writing and speaking that she once did almost for free. And of prostitution, phone sex, meth and heroin—though she treads lightly in this book on those areas. She writes, as she says, with “the dark domestic humor of a satanic Erma Bombeck,” and this is thematic territory that others have explored before her. As the memoir plays chronological hopscotch, some chapters might have fared better as stand-alone essays (particularly “How to Break Up,” which comes after she has settled down, married and her breakups are presumably behind her), and some of the concepts seem a little forced (“Hail the breakover, a breakup-inspired makeover”), but generally, the personality of her writing carries readers through. There’s also an inspirational quality to the way a life that once seemed so wayward (even to the author) has worked out so well.

An engaging and often darkly funny memoir. Life begins at 40 for the author, who got a late start on adulthood and had a wild time getting there.

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0142181195

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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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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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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