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4.0 out of 5 stars No longer the Fruit, but the Tree
Richard Hoffman's sensitivity and insight is on par with his sorrow- the sorrows of growing up in a family where violence and sickness, misunderstanding, bigotry and poverty competed with love, determination, and grit. His father -- the source of most of the love and fury -- was there for the boys to kiss goodnight, but was not always there when they needed reinforcement...
Published 2 months ago by Ace

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Memoir in Fictional Form (?) with Embedded Didactic Essays
Richard Hoffman's book Love & Fury is difficult to categorize. Though termed a memoir, it's beginning reads very much like a novel, and the first one hundred or so pages are consistent with that designation. There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes memoirs are written in the form of a novel, and I found myself evaluating the book accordingly. Hoffman has a nice,...
Published 7 months ago by not a natural


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Memoir in Fictional Form (?) with Embedded Didactic Essays, February 15, 2014
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not a natural "Bob Bickel" (huntington, west virginia United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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Richard Hoffman's book Love & Fury is difficult to categorize. Though termed a memoir, it's beginning reads very much like a novel, and the first one hundred or so pages are consistent with that designation. There's nothing wrong with that. Sometimes memoirs are written in the form of a novel, and I found myself evaluating the book accordingly. Hoffman has a nice, smooth flowing, easy to read prose style that comfortably carries the reader along through some pretty good quality story telling. The protagonist and narrator is his family's eldest son, Dick, a middle aged university professor. Dick is a pretty bland guy, but he's the sort of character that a capable story teller can put to good use.

Hoffman captured my interest from the outset because he writes well about the sort of people I knew while growing up. The dysfunctional working class family that he describes is plagued by a chronic struggle to make ends meet, experiences more than its share of serious illness, and is headed by an explosively profane and tyrannical father very much like my own. Hoffman's characterization is insightful, descriptively plausible, and bespeaks either first-hand experience or a remarkable ability to empathize with others. The patterns of interaction among family members, especially father and sons, struck me as all too familiarly destructive. Reading Hoffman's account made me uneasy, calling forth decidedly unpleasant memories.

Some readers may judge the father to be a one-dimensional caricature of a psychologically destructive parent and spouse. However, I've learned for myself that men like Dick's father are quite real. There may be more below the surface, traits such as insistent fear, a modicum of decency, traces of wholesome sentiment, and even love. However, the pain inflicted and damage done by a man such as Dick's father is so relentlessly palpable that the notion that there is more to him than meets the eye is really nothing but speculation devoid of evidence. Furthermore, the father's failure to turn his violent temper loose on the baseball coach who raped Dick when he was a boy makes one wonder if he's not all just sound and home-bound rage, covering a fundamental cowardice. Furthermore, the author's own failure in not satisfactorily dealing with something as consequential as the rape of a boy, just sort of letting it drop, undermines the book's continuity and contributes to making the ending unsatisfying.

A little over half way through, I found myself wondering if I had completely misjudged the genre and intent of Love & Fury. I took it to be a memoir written in the form of a novel, but without warning it stopped reading like a novel and adopted the tone and mode of presentation of a political polemic. In this fashion, Hoffman has Dick take on a roster of undeniably important and timely topics including racism, sexism, violence, economic injustice, and the value of institutionalized religion. In addition, the author devotes a good deal of time to human frailty and mortality, and the likelihood of a hereafter.

All these issues are pertinent to Love & Fury, but when Hoffman presents them as polemical expositions, his book becomes overtly didactic and ceases to be devoted to development of a coherent narrative. It's true that the author writes about these undeniably difficult and interesting issues with skill, persuasiveness, and evidence of broad learning. However, he seems to have forgotten that writers of quality prose in novel form are at their best when they avoid explicit explanations and direct admonitions in favor of artfully showing the reader how to interpret what is going on. A book rich in well-wrought metaphors and carefully constructed patterns of implication may be harder to read than an essay, but it's also true to the nature of a powerful novel, while the didactic essay is not.

Hoffman occasionally slips back into the style of a novelist, but in short order he returns to overtly didactic, heavy-handed exposition. He preaches. Beyond that, as we near the end of the Love & fury, the prose becomes almost stream-of-consciousness, and sometimes retrospectively stream-of-consciousness. The book remains easy to follow, but changes in style are obvious and may prompt the reader to wonder if he or she is missing something.

Whether Love & Fury is a memoir, a memoir in novel form, or something else, I found the end of Hoffman's book to be excruciatingly implausible. Yes, life is complex and difficult, and each of us has thoughts and feelings that defy explanation and may be self-defeating. However, given all that has gone before, the ending just does not ring true. Dick may be bland, but he's neither stupid nor an emotional cripple. Some discoveries, even when offered as heartfelt realizations made by a book's protagonist may be just too implausible to accept. There's just too much fury and too little else. On the other hand, if it happened it happened, and who am I to second guess the author?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Made Of Coal And Steel And Violence And Trucks And Shame", May 14, 2014
This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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Apparently college professor and poet Richard Hoffman found success with a previous memoir HALF THE HOUSE. That book tells the story of his abuse by a sports coach and its publication even led to the arrest of the perpetrator some twenty years after the incidences with some help from Hoffman's father. In this second memoir LOVE AND FURY Richard Hoffman returns to his home town of Allentown, PA which he mines for some additional material using the diagnosis of his father's fatal illness and funeral as bookends. I haven't read HALF THE HOUSE and apparently in addition to the abuse that is revealed in that volume Hoffman discusses the debilitating illnesses and eventual deaths of two of his brothers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. These events are alluded to but are not the focus of LOVE AND FURY. Instead in LOVE AND FURY Hoffman discusses his father's World War II experience, racism, pornography, people like his family that he deems "white trash", Catholicism and the alcoholism of both he and his son. A large portion of the book is about the father of his grandson a young man from Jamaica who is currently incarcerated due to gun and drug charges. Hoffman attempted to help this unfortunate person with not the best results. LOVE AND FURY tends to feel disjointed and the material appears stretched to its maximum length which leads me to give this short memoir/collection of essays just three stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not compelling, May 21, 2014
By 
Herblady22 "Herblady" (Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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I picked this up several times but was never hooked. Richard Hoffman narrates his working class background where his father's complex racism clashes with modern challenges like Damian,the Jamaican father of Hoffman's grandson. The varied levels of racism are interesting: Hoffman's father had a sister disappear, kicked out for consorting with blacks. He worked in a Big Brother program with black kids but was capable of extremely racist pessimism about their ability to ever succeed. When Hoffman tells his father that the favored daughter is pregnant and she hadn't told him because the father was black, the senior Hoffman says, "What does that matter? I didn;t raise you like that." Richard Hoffman feels like his teeth fell out. Still the father is taken aback that Damian is dark black rather than brown, but it doesn't stop him from falling in love with his grandson,falling into each other's napping rhythms.

Hoffman has a son struggling with alcoholism while pretending to be away at school and I was struck by the senior Hoffman telling him that the purloined tuition money will be well worth the expense if he can rise to the occasion and help the son conquer addiction- it is his chance to flower as a father.

There are scenes that will stick with you even if the entire book does not compel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Look into American Family Values, May 18, 2014
This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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Richard Hoffman takes a look at his classic post-WWII blue collar family with a secure and prosperous life and looks for the ugly side of the coin. He observes his family's views on race, religion and people who are not white and suburban. A somewhat interesting memoir with a look at white privilege.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacked cohesion, April 20, 2014
By 
Debra (Rochester, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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This book had a lot of potential and some amazing hooks that went nowhere. He talks about his daughter's unplanned pregnancy, being raped as a young boy, his brothers' terminal illnesses, his "son-in-law's" incarceration, his son's alcohol abuse, some very insightful observations about race and racism, and his own drug and alcohol abuse. Each of these could have captivated my attention entirely, but instead he talks about them briefly (enough to whet your appetite) and then the thread he weaves throughout the whole book is reflections about the life of his father, who spent the last quarter century of his life rotting in an arm chair. This was the least interesting aspect of his life to me.

I would have loved to hear more about any of the first list of topics, but he really leaves you hanging. I would have loved to know how he came of age dealing with a rape in his past, or how his "son-in-law's" incarceration turned out, or how his daughter's career turned out, or anything about any of that but it's not there. It left me feeling disinterested. At the end of the book he goes on for pages and pages about his dad's funeral.

Overall he had some amazing thoughts, ideas, and stories, and he's an amazing writer but the theme of the book and the thread he chose made the book fall flat for me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A memoir of questions without answers, January 25, 2014
This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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In this book, Richard Hoffman ponders many things, both close to home -- his family of origin and his own marriage and family -- and on a universal scale -- racism, sexism, war, man's inhumanity to man. At times, the narrative is focused and engaging, but at other times it veers off the rails.

Perhaps a reader needs to start with Mr. Hoffman's earlier memoir, Half the House, to make sense of this book. I felt lost much of the time. He mentions sexual abuse by a coach, but nothing that would help me understand its aftermath in his life. How old was he? Who was the guy? Did he tell anyone? Same with issues that arise in his family. We meet his daughter only as a pregnant teen, his son as a messed-up college student, his father, a defeated old man who spent his last 25 years watching television at ear-splitting levels. I know nothing else about these people, so it's hard to maintain sympathy and interest. I suspect what I'm looking for is in Mr. Hoffman's earlier book.

More disorienting to me was Mr. Hoffman's narrow focus on himself. Yes, I know this is a memoir, and "in the particular is contained the universal." But here, I felt that the grand themes were diminished by the relentless inward focus. He ponders whether his daughter chose to have a relationship with a black man only to get back at him, although he offers nothing that would indicate it. He stands at the funeral home in front of his father's body, a very affecting scene, and then yanks the reader out of it by saying he's aware he's going to write about it. He visits his daughter's boyfriend in prison and tells us -- repeatedly -- how very difficult it is for him. I had a lot of sympathy for the man who flat-out tells Mr. Hoffman to stop trying to make sense of his father for his own purposes: "Look, the guy doesn't owe you anything. He raised you. That's enough. Be grateful and leave the poor b*****d alone."

In the end, I come away with the feeling that this is Mr. Hoffman's book of questions, and that he hasn't arrived at the answers yet, and perhaps never will. I know that life is supposed to be all about the journey, but sometimes I'm just as interested in the destination.
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4.0 out of 5 stars No longer the Fruit, but the Tree, July 18, 2014
By 
Ace (East Coast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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Richard Hoffman's sensitivity and insight is on par with his sorrow- the sorrows of growing up in a family where violence and sickness, misunderstanding, bigotry and poverty competed with love, determination, and grit. His father -- the source of most of the love and fury -- was there for the boys to kiss goodnight, but was not always there when they needed reinforcement instead of insults. Even so, his fathers determination to support his family by working hard, his selective admiration of certain ethnicities (if they were his friends, they were pretty much OK), contrasted but coexisted with his anger.

Richard was and is the peacemaker. He goes above and beyond and triumphs what would normally be expected to happen to him as a product of such Love and Fury -- and yes they can co-exist together and have done so in many families, mine being one of them - mother's love existing side by side with beatings, encouragement, insults and loyalty.

Oh there is so much tragedy going on here and I APPLAUD Richard for (1) dealing with his childhood abuses, his alcohol problem his son's issues and his daughter's life (and Damian's life) -- you are a quiet solid blessing to all, Richard.

Richard's observations on life (some humorous, some stark) and those around him are very descriptive word pictures. So much suffering in this world -- what can we do about it but live with it and deal with it as best as we can? And so he does-- and in doing so seems to be weaving a web of understanding, tolerance and love -- in a nutshell he has reaped from his sufferings and is giving back to those around him in a positive, sometimes tough-love way what he was not given as a child.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Memoir About Fatherhood, August 24, 2014
This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
I bought two copies of Richard Hoffman’s excellent memoir, Love and Fury. It’s a powerful and compelling account from a totally unique perspective. In this chapter of his life, Hoffman is an urban intellectual—a writer and professor with excellent intentions and fine liberal values—who suddenly becomes the patriarch of a very complicated biracial family that needs quite a lot from him. The ensuing drama drags him back to his working-class roots—a painful series of confrontations that at times seems like more than he can bear.

Hoffman, always the poet, knows how to seize upon the particular life moments that give the drama a kind of gritty glamor. The book is presented as a series of snapshots or vignettes in non-linear progression: the visits with the son-in-law in prison; the negotiations with his daughter about how to be a parent; the simmering tensions between Hoffman and his wife. It’s pretty intense stuff, and Hoffman sweetens it a little with gallows humor and overwhelming affection for his family, especially his new grandson.

What I liked best, though, and the reason I bought two copies, is the introspective examination of Hoffman’s lifelong relationship with his own father. It’s a complex narrative that weaves throughout the present-tense storylines. Here is a middle-aged man looking up and down the family tree, wondering which harmful emotional traits are immutable and which can be changed. Hoffman is clearly using the book to work something out, and in a way he does. I was deeply engaged in this book from the beginning to the end, and am recommending it to my friends as well. The other copy? It's for my Dad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, July 17, 2014
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A realistic painting of childhood in the boomer generation. Touched me deeply. Our past pains and joys expressed in simple beautiful words.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Richard Hoffman is an amazing writer, August 15, 2014
This review is from: Love and Fury: A Memoir (Hardcover)
Like the title of my review says, Richard Hoffman is an amazing writer. Unlike a lot of the other reviewers here, I *have* read Richard Hoffman's first memoir HALF THE HOUSE, and I loved it. I was so moved, and the writing was exceptional. And then to know the impact Hoffman's book had in the real world makes it all the more impressive. (A long-time abuser was arrested and sent to prison: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_the_House:_A_Memoir) Anyway, I just bought this new memoir that Hoffman wrote and I'll be back to write a review about it shortly. In the meantime, I did hear him last month at a book reading of LOVE & FURY, so I heard excepts and was again moved. From what I heard of the excepts, the book covers intense family drama (my fav genre), and also larger issues of race and class. BTW, I heard that Hoffman's publisher submitted this book for consideration of the National Book Award. That's nothing to sneeze at.
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Love and Fury: A Memoir
Love and Fury: A Memoir by Richard Hoffman (Hardcover - June 3, 2014)
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