An unflinching examination of addiction and an engaging account of healing.

BEFORE I LEAVE YOU

A MEMOIR ON SUICIDE, ADDICTION AND HEALING

Imbeault’s candid memoir traces a turbulent life of childhood abuse, drug addiction, and suicidal ideation to explore what makes life worth living.

The author’s story begins with one of his suicide attempts in adulthood, and over the course of the book, he tells of his recurrent struggles with depression and drug addiction. He writes that he helped to run software company10Count, which he started, and that he married a woman named Perrine within a year of meeting her on an online dating site. Later, however, painful memories of a childhood rape and the experience of going through a divorce sent the author into a dangerous downward spiral, which often involved abusing the drug MDMA, sexual experimentation, and trips to the party scene in Las Vegas. He finally found his way toward redemption when he fell in love with a woman named Mira and became a father. Imbeault’s narrative is often repetitive in its details, but the repetition effectively mirrors the cycle of drug addiction and efforts to get sober. Although the story can, at times, seem cyclical, unexpected turns of phrase will help to reengage the reader, as when the author writes, “Countless hours sailed by while television shows and movies I wasn’t paying attention to bullied the silence out of the room.” Furthermore, the book bounces back and forth between moments in the author’s childhood and his adulthood, which effectively breaks up the narrative. The quieter moments will allow the reader to see “the depths of self-hatred” that consumed Imbeault. He also notes that his childhood rape “lived in my periphery like trees we pass on a train and I dared not look at it directly,” and he tells of how he managed to forgive the man who abused him.

An unflinching examination of addiction and an engaging account of healing.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5445-0659-3

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Houndstooth Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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