An engrossing coming-of-age story that wrings hard-won wisdom from giddy romance.



In her memoir, Scolnik recounts a passionate affair, tested by separation, with a Frenchman.

Scolnik’s narrative begins in 1976 when the 20-year-old Wesleyan student arrived in Paris for a junior year abroad to study flute, French literature, Marxist “Dialectic Thought,” etc. Entranced by Parisian culture but feeling lonely and adrift, she signed up with the amateur chorus of the Orchestre de Paris, where, scanning the bass section, she beheld Luc, an “Adonis-like man” with “a sensitive face radiating quiet intelligence.” After days of gazing, she finally tapped him on the shoulder. Through awkward small talk, car rides, and cafe meetups with the reserved tax lawyer, the two bonded over classical music and succumbed to a torrent of love, sex that felt “deeply metaphysical,” and languorous idylls in her garret. Alas, their love seemed doomed. Luc was married with a 3-year-old son, but, he assured Scolnik, he was separated from his wife, Claire (much of the time, at least), and would divorce her and go to America to work, perhaps. Returning to New England and Wesleyan, Scolnik continued to hope, encouraged by Luc’s besotted letters and a three-week reprise of the affair during her spring break trip to Paris. When Luc announced that he would come to Boston for a summer English course, she rented them an apartment to live in together—and that’s when her blazing ardor got plunged into an ice bath. Luc arrived grumpy and distracted, hated every morsel of American food, and made plain his indifference to Scolnik, even scoffing at her when she badly cut herself. After five days of this treatment, Scolnik “despised him with every cell in [her] body” and left him. She then rushed back a few weeks later to see him—only to be confronted by Claire herself.

Scolnik’s saga is, in part, a burning love letter to Paris, written with gorgeous detail. In cafes, she writes, she “began to recognize certain types—elderly French ladies sitting shoulder to shoulder looking out onto the street, their miniature terriers perched on chairs beside them; businessmen in suits nursing tall beers; students smoking cigarettes and writing notes at their espresso-cluttered tables; graying, long-haired intellectuals with scarves, looking important, retired, and committed to café life as a means of keeping the old political discussions alive over their plats du jour.” Concerning her fraught relationship with Luc, she conveys the visceral impact of the couple’s attraction (“it was like touching a power line,” she writes, when her finger accidentally grazed his hand during a concert), while its obsessiveness comes through in excerpts from Luc’s hammy but heartfelt missives. (“My body was knotted, as if, at 1:30 when your plane took off, all the existential anguish that you knew how to appease, surprised me again with more force, more tenacity. Paris seems absurd.”) Scolnik’s shrewd, evocative prose captures the bliss of love, but she’s also entertainingly cleareyed about its petty agonies when it unravels. (“Although I knew that none of our daily trials were my fault, Luc made me feel responsible for them all: that the bus ride into Cambridge was long and hot, that good art films weren’t showing at the right times, that a dead fish was floating in the Boston Harbor, that inexpensive little bistros weren’t materializing when we were hungry.”) The result is a captivating remembrance that treats falling in love and falling out of it with equal honesty.

An engrossing coming-of-age story that wrings hard-won wisdom from giddy romance.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64663-471-2

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Koehler Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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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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A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

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One of Hollywood’s biggest stars delivers a memoir of success won through endless, relentless work and self-reckoning.

“My imagination is my gift, and when it merges with my work ethic, I can make money rain from the heavens.” So writes Smith, whose imagination is indeed a thing of wonder—a means of coping with fear, an abusive father with the heart of a drill instructor, and all manner of inner yearnings. The author’s imagination took him from a job bagging ice in Philadelphia to initial success as a partner in the Grammy-winning rap act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Smith was propelled into stardom thanks to the ministrations of Quincy Jones, who arranged an audition in the middle of his own birthday party, bellowing “No paralysis through analysis!” when Smith begged for time to prepare. The mantra—which Jones intoned 50-odd times during the two hours it took for the Hollywood suits to draw up a contract for the hit comedy series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—is telling, for hidden within this memoir lies a powerful self-help book. For Smith, all of life is a challenge in which one’s feelings are largely immaterial. “I watched my father’s negative emotions seize control of his ample intellect and cause him over and over again to destroy beautiful parts of our family,” he writes, good reason for him to sublimate negativity in the drive to get what he wanted—money, at first, and lots of it, which got him in trouble with the IRS in the early 1990s. Smith, having developed a self-image that cast him as a coward, opines that one’s best life is lived by facing up to the things that hold us back. “I’ve been making a conscious effort to attack all the things that I’m scared of,” he writes, adding, “And this is scary.” It’s a good lesson for any aspiring creative to ponder—though it helps to have Smith’s abundant talent, too.

A refreshing celebrity memoir focused not strictly on the self but on a much larger horizon.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984877-92-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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