Jong-Fast is the Joan Rivers for slackers: she delights in pushing the boundaries of libel only to retreat, all in the...

THE SEX DOCTORS IN THE BASEMENT

TRUE STORIES FROM A SEMI-CELEBRITY CHILDHOOD

From the author of the debut novel Normal Girl (2000): shallow, neurotic, very funny essays that continue to milk the writer’s relations to famous mother Erica Jong and grandfather Howard Fast.

“I knew I was going to have to prostitute this experience,” Jong-Fast acknowledges by way of mock apology for dishing the dirt on the famous people she encounters during her years of growing up, “and pretty much everything else that’s ever happened to me.” Straightaway, she dispenses with niceties: she loves lying, is “mildly maladjusted,” greedy for publicity, “somewhat self-obsessed,” and shamelessly devoted to name-dropping, especially dropping her own family’s names if that can win her food or flattery. When she first meets the new girl and future supermodel Sophie Dahl at the tony Manhattan Day School, her opening line is “Do you know who my mom is?” Some of the sacred cows Jong-Fast relishes butchering include her grandfather Howie (a novelist jailed in the ’50s for refusing to name names before HUAC; now, in his eighties, he’s marrying his forty-year-old secretary—“The bride wore a white suit. The groom wore Depends”); the various unsavory boyfriends of her mother, the so-called Queen of Erotica; the shrinks her mother employed to help the husky Molly slim down; and family friend Joan Collins, who commits the horrific faux pas of announcing that thirteen-year-old Molly was “too fat to go on Valentino’s yacht,” thus ensuring ten more years of therapy. Jong-Fast is sarcastic but not stupid, and she wields an acid pen—the “muumuu-wearing fascist” psychiatrist to the stars who helps her lose weight is dubbed “Adolf Hitler,” and one in the succession of dubious secretaries for her mom at their home on East 94th Street is “Marie Osmond,” for her “incredible value system.”

Jong-Fast is the Joan Rivers for slackers: she delights in pushing the boundaries of libel only to retreat, all in the spirit of good clean fun. After all, what else does she have to write about?

Pub Date: April 12, 2005

ISBN: 1-4000-6144-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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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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