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Cocaine's Son: A Memoir Hardcover – January 18, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400065720
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400065721
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,510 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Dave Itzkoff on Cocaine's Son

Whatever the circumstances of our childhoods, we all grow up to become adults with questions about our parents and how they shaped the trajectories of our lives. What lessons were our mothers and fathers trying to impart to us? What pitfalls did they want us to avoid, and what mistakes of theirs did we end up repeating anyway? And how might we treat our parents differently if we were given a second chance with them?

These are all questions I confronted when I wrote about my relationship with my father, except that we were dealt a further challenge: for the first 25 years of my life, beginning in the 1970s, my father was addicted to cocaine. He was outwardly a successful man with a wife, two children, and a thriving business, but he struggled privately–-and sometimes not-so-privately-–with his drug habit, attempting everything from psychotherapy to voluntary institutionalization to cold-turkey purges to kick his addiction. When he finally got clean, I was an almost full-grown man, desperate to know who my father had been in the time I had missed, and as fascinated to discover who he had since become as he was to learn the same about me.

Cocaine’s Son is as much my story as it is my father’s: my chronicle of growing up enthralled by a man I could not fully understand, of our sometimes painful efforts, after his drug problem was conquered, to remain in each other’s lives, and the unexpected twists and turns that invariably led us back to each other. Whether or not your life has been touched by addiction issues, I hope this is a story with something to say about your own experience as someone’s child or parent.


From Bookmarks Magazine

Itzkoff’s distress and embarrassment at his father’s behavior are tangible in this unflinching portrait of a troubled childhood. While the critics generally enjoyed this new addition to the genre, a few flaws hampered that enjoyment. Some thought that Itzkoff’s story, with its rosy, upper-middle-class veneer, lacks the edge of similar memoirs, while others raised objections to Itzkoff’s singular focus on his father, whose larger-than-life personality eclipses the other characters—including Itzkoff himself. He spends a considerable amount of time analyzing his father’s actions in an attempt to understand them, and these frequent ruminations, according to Entertainment Weekly, can be intrusive and redundant. When a fellow journalist publishes a book, the critics often take it easy on him or her. That the reviews were not glowing means there’s less here than meets the eye.

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Customer Reviews

While not a bad read, I would not recommend it.
Suz
After reading the book, I don't feel empathy for the author or his father, or even feel like I know much about either of them.
Pamela V
This memoir is all about emotion with comparatively little about the background stories.
Avid Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Just ask me! VINE VOICE on December 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Because I am already familiar with Dave Itzkoff's writing, from his work in the New York Times Book Review, I was not surprised at his ability to produce a memoir (not even his first!) with such depth despite his relatively young age. This volume focuses on Itzkoff's relationship with his father and eventually what impact that relationship might have on his relationships with others, including his own future children.
Since Itzkoff has known only one father, the senior Itzkoff's drug dependency for much of his son's life is blamed for Gerald Itzkoff's personality quirks and for his deficiencies and absences as a parent. The more objective reader can see that other trauma, although that trauma may also have led him to need the relief of drugs, probably had more to do with the elder Itzkoff's difficulties. In explaining who the "David" was for whom he was named, and his father's hopes and dreams in so naming him, Itzkoff does seem to recognize that too, and that it is not just cocaine addiction which leads his father to often be an inappropriate parent, confiding in a young Dave Itzkoff about adult matters.
This is a memoir which read like a novel, and I will be looking forward to Itzkoff's future memoirs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Whitney VINE VOICE on January 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Admittedly, I chose this book because on the surface, it seemed that Itzkoff and I may have had a similar upbringing: we both had a parent who was addicted to cocaine. Not that I expected him to mirror my life, I was just curious as to what it was like for someone else in the same situation.

Itzkoff's life seemed eerily familiar. He recounts how he grew to understand that his parent's weren't just arguing...there was an underlying cause. As time goes on and his dad's episodes go from the exception to the expected; and as he grows older and becomes more involved in these episodes, we see how the relationship between father and son becomes so fractured.

For all kids in this situation there are times of great sadness, worry and embarrassment. Moments stick out in the memory that represent how skewed and failed that parent/child relationship has become. I felt sadness for Itzkoff when he retold the story of having to track down his dad to a flophouse where he has been holed up with a bunch of coke and porn magazines. How heartbreaking. I'm sure that most kids of drug addicts have their own similarly heartbreaking situations, so I wonder if my own memories, different and personal, make me more sensitive to his situation.

The appearance of cocaine in both Itzkoff's and my families occurred in the late 70s early 80s, when the drug was experiencing its explosion of popularity. As with all new drugs, it takes some time for the repercussions to be felt, and society to come up with mechanisms to combat the addiction. There were no TV shows like Intervention or Dr. Phil that made addiction a prime-time conversation, so it was a new battle with a new enemy, and many families were the testing ground for the war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charlene Rubush VINE VOICE on September 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
They say that a writer is blessed if he comes from an "interesting/screwed up" background, for therein lay pathos and often, black humor. Well, author Dave Itzkoff got lucky in that regard. He lived it, and there's plenty of both in this excellent read.

For the first eight years of Dave's life, his father was an elusive figure. The author writes "He was such an elusive and transient figure that for the first eight years of my life I seem to have believed my father was the product of my imagination."

Women played a bigger part in his world, from his resourceful mother, Maddy, to a younger sister, two grandmothers, aunts and various cousins. Maddy was a nurturing type (p.4) a mother who rubbed medicine on Dave's chest when he had a cold, and massaged his feet when growing pains assaulted his bones.

Maddy was also the one who reminded young Dave that there was another person named Gerry, who he knew as Dad. Gerry was in the fur business in New York City.

This was the man who would often enter his son's room in the wee hours, tousle the boy's hair, wrap his ample arms and legs around him, and envelop his child in his warmth. Then he would say, "Davey, are you up? Can I talk to you?"

The son listened as his dad talked and talked. Inevitably, the conversation went like this. "You know, David, that sex between a man and woman is the most beautiful and natural thing there is? It's okay to want it. It's okay to want it from a woman. You've got to let them know that you want it. That's how God made the game."

Dave learned many things as he grew up. He learned what it was to be Jewish, and that his father was a drug addict; hooked on cocaine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Suz on February 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book started out great. The first few pages were engaging and well-written. After that . . . it just kinda petered out. I never got a good feel for the author or any of the other people in the memoir. The memories were disjointed and seemed like so many paths with no destination. The father's cocaine use, while undoubtedly having a great impact on his son's life, seemed just one of many issues between father and son, so the title was a little misleading. I kept waiting for it to get better, to make more sense, to bind together the loose ends, but it never really happened. While not a bad read, I would not recommend it.
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