THE GORILLA MAN AND THE EMPRESS OF STEAK

A NEW ORLEANS FAMILY MEMOIR

New Orleans forms the richly atmospheric backdrop for a determined, eccentric family who found success in the steakhouse business.

University English teacher and president of two foundations named in his mother’s honor, Fertel eloquently traces his family history back to his childhood as one of two sons born to food lover Ruth and gambling aficionado Rodney, heir to a shady pawnshop business renowned for being “the biggest fences in the South.” Fertel’s parents married young in 1948 and enjoyed 11 years together before separating, Ruth leaning toward business and Rodney, after taking his son on lavish vacations to Europe, launching two outlandish New Orleans mayoral bids with separate campaign promises: one to acquire a gorilla for the zoo, the other to relocate the Blarney Stone to the Superdome. Though the narrative is a bit disjointed and lacks a cohesive ebb and flow (the generous photographs help, however), Fertel’s memoir gains momentum when he details his mother’s fascinating and resilient ascent to eventual nationwide notoriety with the 1965 purchase of the Chris Steak House brand. Her ownership of the restaurant did not get off to good start, as the flagship restaurant was located in a sketchy part of town, some bad blood with the former owner erupted and a fire forced her to relocate and rename it the “hard to forget” Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Christened “the First Lady of American restaurants,” Fertel expands further on his mother’s notoriously delectable taste in quality meats, her distinctive flare for atmosphere and her love and respect for her staff. Ruth succumbed to cancer in 2002, having sold the business three years prior—though, her son lovingly notes, she remains “one of the great restaurateurs in a city of great restaurants.” Fertel ends his memoir with a somber chapter on Hurricane Katrina’s massive devastation, which swept five feet of water into the Ruth’s Chris flagship store. An uneven but zesty chronicle—worth a look for food historians.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-61703-082-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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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