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Close to the Bone
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A collection of works by different authors is likely to show inconsistencies, but the bright spots offered by these eight writers far outweigh the rough edges. With examples of what she calls "post-therapeutic memoir," Stone (Laughing in the Dark: A Decade of Subversive Comedy) has gathered a group of writers whose specialty is voyeuristic views into the lives of the desperate, depraved and drugged. Graphic descriptions of sex, illness and addiction punctuate these first-person essays, only three of which are reprints, but life's agonies and injustices are more effectively drawn here in the kind of quiet tones seldom seen by the Oprah generation. Phillip Lopate's "The Story of My Father" provides a heartbreaking review of old age and failed lives from the inside of a nursing home; Lois Gould's "Businessman" treats the story of her dying father with similar elegance and restraint; Peter Trachtenberg's handle on sarcasm brings humor to a failed love affair in "I Kiss Her Good-bye." In striving so earnestly to be brave and frank, some of these memoirs are merely annoying. But most‘Jerry Stahl's "Pipe to the Head" is one of the best insider's views of the drug culture this decade‘serve to recommend this growing genre even to the easily startled. (Oct.)

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