Imatge de l'autor
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Sobre l'autor

Alexander Stille is the author of Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic and Benevolence and Betrayal: Five Italian Jewish Families Under Fascism. He is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Times. He lives in New York City
Crèdit de la imatge: Wikipedia

Obres de Alexander Stille

Obres associades

At the Mind's Limit (1966) — Pròleg, algunes edicions359 exemplars
Granta 75: Brief Encounters (2001) — Col·laborador — 125 exemplars


Coneixement comú



Engrossing story of a very long lasting cult that held that families were the root of all problems and pursued a lifestyle that encouraged polygamy and community raising of children.
ghefferon | Hi ha 4 ressenyes més | Apr 1, 2024 |
As another reviewer said, this book desperately needed some editing. Although it was based on the numerous interviews Stille conducted, the structure, partly chronological and partly organized by subjects, meant that his subjects were continually introduced and re-introduced and the same stories recounted over and over.

It's too bad. It could have been a much more powerful and interesting book.
1 vota
bobbieharv | Hi ha 4 ressenyes més | Jan 12, 2024 |
This book promises to a thoughtful exploration of an eccentric group, but instead delivers a trashy true crime beach read.
grunin | Hi ha 4 ressenyes més | Dec 2, 2023 |
One reason I rarely read self-published work is that it often has bad (or no) editors. A good editor cannot spin straw into gold, but she can polish and shape gold from a shiny nugget into something beautiful. By the same token a bad editor, can utterly destroy a good book. There are certain publishing houses I rely upon to provide their writers with great editors. I may not love every book those publishers release, but I can be reasonably certain I will get the best iteration of the book I am reading. In the top 5 on that list is FSG. They have a long history and a notable present facility for releasing books that have literary merit and which are beautifully edited and presented. And so I am surprised and disappointed by this book, which seems to have been edited by people with short-term memory loss and no training in sentence structure. That editing team made what should have been a really good read an absolute chore.

This story is one that would be of great interest, both intellectual and prurient, to most people, including me. I don't want to go into the workings of the cult, many other reviews have done so, but an adult child of one of the founders (who grew up with her mother and was not raised in the cult) said that the Fourth Wall incorporated the worst elements of psychotherapy, Marxism, and musical theater, and that is the most perfect and succinct description ever. Sadly, this led to neglected and abused children, women raped as a regular event, vulnerable people being told by their therapists they should kill themselves, people being made destitute, and other tragedies. There is pathos and comedy to spare in this tale, but this book is repetitive and dry. One character (this is non-fiction, I use the word "character" for real people) who is quite central cannot be featured in a scene without the author noting that he felt he could not leave the cult because of the threat of losing his two children. Another character is always reintroduced with the reminder of how sweet and adorable he is. We are constantly reminded that one member is 6-feet tall and unattractive (until she loses 35 pounds and becomes desirable - insert eyeroll) The women at the top of the cult were cruel and abusive to the women drafted and forced to be their babysitters. Over and over Stille tells the stories of babysitters making innocent mistakes and the women at the top flying into rages, screaming at, and hitting them and of the community being convinced that these innocent lapses meant the sitters were psychopaths (that is the precise word used.) He tells us over and over about the group's head, Saul Newton, demanding his patients give him blow jobs during their psychotherapy sessions (for which they were paying hourly.) He also repreatedly tells us how long those blow jobs were because an 8o year old requires a lot of snake-charming to get off. I am not saying these are not all horrifying incidents. I am saying they could be covered once or twice with the note that these behaviors were rampant in the cult, and maybe quick references - "Sue also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Newton and Klein" or "Naomi, despite not wanting to be a babysitter, stayed in the postion despite the frequent abuse from Joan Harvey" rather than yet another blow-by-blow (no pun intended) of these behaviors. And these repeated utterances are not juicy descriptions. This book is extremely well researched, but the writing is bone dry. Stille makes boring an upper-west side polyamorous sex cult led by psychoanalysts where people were forced to stage revolutionary original musicals in a downton blackbox theater in the spare time they had after work, regular therapy, and guerilla action to protect the cult against paranoid fantasies of imminent government attack. It is really hard to make that dull. And yet Stille does just that. Between the endless repetition (this could he easily 100 pages shorter without losing a single thing) the endlessly long over-complicated sentences, and the over-explication of events, Stille somehow managed to excise anything remotely titillating. Stille sucked the life out of this. I get that he did not want to further sensationalize this story, but in his efforts to avoid sensationalization he somehow managed to make all of this seem ho-hum.

There was some interesting sociological and psychological perspective in the last 100 pages (Though that was also repetitive. Tell me about the Stanford Prison Experiment once, not three times! Especially since most people who would read this book likely know about the Stanford Prison Experiment.) However, IMO the analysis of the actions of the cult leaders and followers should have been blended more with the reporting so the reader would get that analysis while reading about the actions rather than have to try to remember specifics of actions that happened on page 27 while reading the analysis on page 427.

Great topic great research smothered by a writer and editor who have an aversion to declarative sentences and a strange need to tell you the same story 11 times. A 2.5. I will tip it to a GR 3 for the great cover art and for making me see how valuable the offer of cheap rent and psychoanalysis would be when starting a cult in Manhattan -- it would definitely get people through the front door even now.
… (més)
2 vota
Narshkite | Hi ha 4 ressenyes més | Aug 1, 2023 |



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