Revealing, irreverent and strangely tender.

FAMILY OUTING

A MEMOIR: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I FOUND OUT MY MOTHER WAS GAY

San Diego print and radio journalist Johnson details the painful metamorphosis he underwent from homophobic child to a mature adult who could accept his mother’s sexual orientation.

At age ten, her ex-girlfriend chose to break it to him that his mom was a lesbian. This surprising revelation tested the delicate family balance established years earlier when his parents had divorced: While his sister raged and acknowledged her feelings of betrayal, Johnson drove his pain and anger deep within. The ensuing period of delinquent behavior put an agonizing strain on his relationship with the mother he had always considered his soul mate. Recalling with self-deprecating sarcasm the vandalism, drug and alcohol experimentation, rampant promiscuity, gay trashing and born-again Christian phases he underwent, the author also examines how he and his sister hurt their mother. “During therapy,” he writes, “my mom explained that we had scared her deep into the closet—past the hamper, past the shoes, into the mental crawl space behind the insulation. Because we called people we didn’t like fags and things we didn’t like gay, she really thought her kids hated homos.” It was only when he was in college that Johnson finally made the decision to accept his mother as she was. Still, he admits, such acceptance is an ongoing process: “There’s no parade where a papier-mâché replica of my old, bigoted self burns in effigy and everyone drinks champagne until we’re happy. We can only do this one uncomfortable moment at a time.” A master of the declarative, the author offers numerous thoughtful observations on the emotive force of family dynamics and how internalized shame can stunt a life.

Revealing, irreverent and strangely tender.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-55970-871-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008

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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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