Sunday, January 11, 2015

My Current Reads

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have been reading lots and lots of books, many of them I obtained through the local book exchange where I worked for about six months this past year, plus I have purchased books in bookstores, flea markets, and on online sellers like Amazon. I don't download a lot of titles these days because I want to OWN--not rent--the titles.

Two current books I am finishing up are these:

Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon (2008). This is a good, if somewhat dry, recounting of the mess surrounding the final years and death of popular philanthropist Brooke Astor and her ungrateful son Tony (who died a few weeks ago) and his wife Charlene. The author interviewed many of her friends, family members, and associates to get a fly-on-the-wall story of greed and alleged elder abuse.

This book has taken me longer to get through than most. Gordon isn't a bad writer, but I think she tries to pack more information in than necessary, so it takes a while to get through this book.

I wouldn't give it five stars, but it is still worthwhile if you are interested in the Astor case.

Whatever else Howard Dully's 2007 memoir, My Lobotomy, (co-written with Charles Fleming) is, it is NOT dull or boring. The title may be somewhat misleading because the book is much less about the lobotomy itself, which Dully has little or no memory of and has to rely on his quack doctor Walter Freeman's notes, than it is about a truly dysfunctional family life. His mother died when he was four or five years old, and his father remarried, only to a truly batshit woman who was hellbent on destroying Dully's life. If that seems biased on his part, he does offer evidence in support of that opinion through notes by other psychologists/psychiatrists, family members, and so forth. She was flat-out off her rocker. His poor guy was shuttled to relatives homes and to other people's homes, put in asylums and other institutions simply because this stepmother from hell didn't want him around. We are never made clear just why she felt threatened by him, but he was scapegoated early on. Virtually everybody who examined him but that quack Freeman, credited with the discredited and debunked "ice pick" lobotomy, said there was nothing wrong with Howard Dully but the problem instead was with the stepmother. In other words, this is more a story of child abuse than it is about somebody having gone through quack surgery. I am taking my time finishing this book, but I have to say if readers haven't read it, they should.

A couple of other books I have started reading are American Eve by Paula Uruburu (about the infamous Stanford White murder case) and Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, Mae West's autobiography.

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