Takes a light, self-deprecating approach, injecting some comic relief into a calamitous experience with hair loss.

Hell Toupee

MY RIDICULOUS YEAR WEARING A HAIR REPLACEMENT

A self-conscious funnyman recalls the series of stressful misfortunes that caused his unflattering hair loss.

Brooklyn comedian Friedman (Totally Tuneless, 2014) first noticed his thinning hair in the early ’80s after a succession of tragic events rattled his life. The domino effect of his parents’ bitter divorce, a breakup, and turning 30 all contributed to the author’s ever-expanding bald spot. Lamenting the incremental loss of what was once a “clownishly large natural...Jew-fro,” Friedman appealed to “Head Restart for Men.” The $1,500 treatments involved a series of visits to a Manhattan clinic where a toupee-like “hair system” was glued to Friedman’s head. A droll comedy of errors began at his office as the paranoid author was scrutinized by critical co-workers; then there was a snafu involving the clinic applying the wrong hairpiece to his scalp, adding insult to injury. Readers will sympathize with Friedman as he attempts to work his way up the New York improv comedy circuit with classes and auditions, only to be stymied by the daily high-maintenance routine required by his hair treatment. Interesting though unevenly distributed, Friedman’s book (its title is a classic Simpsons pun) is padded with anecdotes on his post-collegiate years traveling Europe, writing song lyrics, and looking for a girlfriend. As his stage star rose, Friedman eventually dispensed with his “pseudo-hair,” ushering in an epiphany that dissolved his insecurities and made room for personal renewal. He adds warmth and depth to eloquent details of a Jewish upbringing influenced by his father, an enthusiastic, egotistical salesman with a comb-over and an infectious sense of humor. Aside from baseball, a youthful obsession with Charlie Chaplin fueled Friedman’s interest in live-performance theatrical roles, which also offered a creative distraction from his embittered, divorcing parents. During his first years at college, his bald spot began spreading as Friedman experimented with marijuana, first love, and a disastrous attempt at selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners

Takes a light, self-deprecating approach, injecting some comic relief into a calamitous experience with hair loss. 

Pub Date: Dec. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9863008-0-6

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Lewis Avenue Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2015

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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