Fabulously quirky and outrageous.

A blisteringly funny yet affecting debut memoir about a young woman’s struggle to overcome panic disorder and agoraphobia.

Podcast host and award-winning comedian Benincasa recounts her adolescent devolution into a “full-on, obsessive, cowering, trembling agoraphobe.” She suffered her first panic attacks when she was 11 and was taking antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs to control her condition by the time she was 16. Her phobias continued to intensify to the point where even short trips to the hair salon became difficult for her. Benincasa, however, ignored the signs that her “weird problems” were getting worse until she got to college. During her junior year, she broke down completely. In the terrible omniscience born from madness, she woke up one day “knowing” that to leave her apartment meant certain disaster. The comedian then began a slow and painful surrender to the phobias that had dogged her from childhood. Her bed became her refuge, cereal bowls her toilets. Therapy, homemade smoothies, “Zentastic, organic, free-range, fair trade, sustainable, sage-scented self-help books” and the timely intervention of friends and family pulled Benincasa back from the edge of her agoraphobic abyss. But she continued to wrestle with her demons through college, teaching jobs and graduate school until she discovered, by accident, the healing power of stand-up comedy. “I subscribe to the notion,” she writes, “that if you can laugh at the shittiest moments in your life, you can transcend them.”

Fabulously quirky and outrageous.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-202441-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012


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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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