Probstein (Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus/MIT) offers a delightful life story of his father, Honest Sid, “a gambler, a horseplayer, a bookie… a ticket scalper” and an all-around nice guy.

“Even though his lifestyle was crooked,” writes Probstein of his father, “his intentions were loving and honorable.” It was just that he had neither an interest in nor a temperament for a real job. In his youth, in the early decades of the past century, he’d been a promising baseball player—until he threw a game. He’d tried being a booking agent for vaudeville acts—Adam and Eve the Twin Bowling Monkeys were a big draw—but that was too straight a profession. And so, seemingly inevitably, he made his life and living amid the denizens of New York’s Broadway—shady characters with bright suits that Damon Runyon would later turn into American archetypes. This, then, was the setting of Probstein’s childhood. His playgrounds were boxing gyms, betting parlors and theater basements along the Great White Way. While other kids learned to hunt or fish with their dads, Probstein learned to handicap horse races and calculate betting odds, skills that would serve him well in his later science career. Life was not easy for a freelancing ne’er-do-well and his family in Depression era New York. A good week would mean Sid brought home a large stack of cash to his wife, and the love of his life, Sally. A bad week meant the shylocks would come calling. Good times meant Sunday dinner at Lindy’s, bad times meant quick exits from transient hotels. Nevertheless, Probstein adored his father and this affection imbues the book with an appealing nostalgia. A lithe, dashing figure in his tailored suits, Sid was never anything but kind and devoted to both his son and Sally. An eternal optimist, he was sure that the next bet, the next horse race, would be their ticket to the good life. It never happened, but despite the bumps along the way, Probstein cherished life with this charming dreamer of a dad. With humor, a rich eye for detail and a storyteller’s knack, the author brings to life a time and place now long gone. Probstein is clearly having a good time here—the reader will as well.


Pub Date: May 26, 2009

ISBN: 978-1440141881

Page Count: 193

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 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 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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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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