From Publishers Weekly
Centered on dead-on perceptions of the swirling needs, poses and cruelties of her family, Lederer's debut memoir is less Positively Fifth Street than an alienated New England version of The Liar's Club, and ends up with some of the best of both. Poet Lederer (Winter Sex) winningly tracks her siblings' improbable metamorphosis from New Hampshire private school faculty brats (and occasional degenerates) to world-class card sharks at the Las Vegas poker tables. (The transformation of Katy's father Richard Lederer from quiescent teacher to celebrated author of Anguished English and other language puzzle books happens mostly off-camera.) After parsing the class codes (and anti-Semitism) of her rich peers, young Katy becomes curious about her siblings' mysterious, money-laden reinventions of themselves, eventually following her brother, Howard (with their recovered alcoholic mother keeping his bettor's books), and sister, Annie, to Sin City to stake her own claim. There aren't enough of Lederer's blow-by-blows of learning to play among hardcore pros, tourists and "compulsives," but her descriptive gifts are on display throughout, even in the "ultragibbous" eyes of one of her brother's sports bettor clients. Totaling up her experiences at the $3-$6 tables, Katy chooses writing over poker, but while studying poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her mother and older siblings' massive accumulation of wealth disappears overnight, with jail looming. Despite loose structuring and too many sketchily detailed events, Lederer hones in on the family's complex relationship to games, money and one another and their efforts to direct the ebb and flow of all three, and will convince even the abstemious of gambling's deep power to alter relationships.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The youngest of three children, Katy lived with her family in the dormitory of the East Coast boarding school where her father taught English--her modest circumstances contrasting vividly with the other students' old money. During Katy's younger years, her mother drank, her brother policed the liquor cabinet, her sister stole from their mother's pocketbook, and her father did his best to keep up appearances. When Katy was nine, her brother, Howard, took off for New York to become a "professional" gambler, living in sleazy hotels and supporting himself in backroom poker games. Soon after, her mother, now sober, joined her son. While in high school, Katy visited both of them regularly, intrigued by their bohemian lifestyle and cautiously eager to learn Howard's craft. As an English major at Berkeley, Katy goes a different direction, but she reverses course and winds up in Las Vegas, mastering the art of poker at her brother's knee. Like James McManus' recent Positively Fifth Street [BKL F 15 03], about the World Series of Poker, this offbeat memoir will attract both gamblers and literary types. Mary Frances Wilkens
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