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A Thinking Man's Bully Hardcover – January 7, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Adelberg taps a headline-grabbing, hot-button issue in his debut about a New Jersey man realizing the ramifications of his former violent behavior on friends and family... Readers will be enlightened by this capable, contemporary drama about the life of a repentant tyrant and his attempts to save his son. The author, a reformed high school troublemaker, offers a fresh perspective on bullying by seamlessly intertwining the actions, the results, and the lasting consequences of brutality into a story brimming with personality and narrative brio.

Publishers Weekly


In these confessions of a super-creep, high hilarity alternates with the sad lowdown on a grown-up boy who makes believe he s macho... a darkly terrific delight.

Kirkus Reviews


The material in A Thinking Man's Bully is certainly heavy, but it's leavened with deadpan humor and wry observations that make for a highly engaging, bittersweet read, not unlike paging through an old yearbook or a family photo album. Additionally, Adelberg's straightforward prose works the minor miracle of balancing bluntness and nuance as he examines difficult and complex issues throughout the proceedings. All told, A Thinking Man's Bully is a superb debut.

Small Press Reviews

Adelberg s punchy prose propels the work forward. Delving into a litany of teen tribulations unrequited crushes, ugly fights, drug use Adelberg pens realistic fiction that avoids cloying nostalgia.
--Booklist


A perfectly painted mix of dark and light, amusement and pain, guilt, wisdom and innocence... The 190 pages of this book race past, each short story complete, each analysis intriguing and revealing, each twist in the plot perfectly timed. I couldn t put it down and recommend it highly a uniquely structured novel whose arrangement perfectly fits its tale.

--Cafe Libri


Told in a combination of therapy sessions and memories-turned-short stories, A Thinking Man's Bully is most powerful for its realism. The reader may find herself flipping back to the copyright page to confirm that, yes, this is a fiction, not a memoir... Adelberg's true triumph lies in the reliability of his narrator. He recalls his childhood as a time of both the good and the bad, along with intentions that we can both applaud and condemn, all the while rooting for his success.
--The Broken Pencil

Michael Adelberg s straight forward prose pulls no punches as it dredges up the painful memories of growing up, fitting in and doing the right thing... Through discussion, reflection and attrition, Mathew Duffy confronts years of guilt for the kid he was, takes responsibility for the kid he s raising, and learns to appreciate that sometimes through tragedy, a stronger and better self can emerge. A Thinking Man's Bully aims high and hits the mark.

--BookFetish.org


Matt Duffy is going to a shrink because his wife asked him to after the suicide attempt of their teenage son... What emerges is a culture of bullying, passed from generation to generation, that had a dark and long reaching effect on many lives, not just Matt's. A fascinating character study told in a very unique way that I just can't stop thinking about--there is profound depth in this seemingly simple book.

--Jackie Blem of The Tattered Cover, a nationally-recognized independent book store


Recommended for young adult readers... Teens will appreciate Adelberg s easy-to-read high-school ruminations and insights.

--Katharine Fronk, for the American Library Association -- --American Library Association

Adelberg s punchy prose propels the work forward. Delving into a litany of teen tribulations unrequited crushes, ugly fights, drug use Adelberg pens realistic fiction that avoids cloying nostalgia.
--Booklist


A perfectly painted mix of dark and light, amusement and pain, guilt, wisdom and innocence... The 190 pages of this book race past, each short story complete, each analysis intriguing and revealing, each twist in the plot perfectly timed. I couldn t put it down and recommend it highly a uniquely structured novel whose arrangement perfectly fits its tale.

--Café Libri


Told in a combination of therapy sessions and memories-turned-short stories, A Thinking Man's Bully is most powerful for its realism. The reader may find herself flipping back to the copyright page to confirm that, yes, this is a fiction, not a memoir... Adelberg's true triumph lies in the reliability of his narrator. He recalls his childhood as a time of both the good and the bad, along with intentions that we can both applaud and condemn, all the while rooting for his success.
--The Broken Pencil --The Broken Pencil

Michael Adelberg s straight forward prose pulls no punches as it dredges up the painful memories of growing up, fitting in and doing the right thing... Through discussion, reflection and attrition, Mathew Duffy confronts years of guilt for the kid he was, takes responsibility for the kid he s raising, and learns to appreciate that sometimes through tragedy, a stronger and better self can emerge. A Thinking Man's Bully aims high and hits the mark.

--BookFetish.org


Matt Duffy is going to a shrink because his wife asked him to after the suicide attempt of their teenage son... What emerges is a culture of bullying, passed from generation to generation, that had a dark and long reaching effect on many lives, not just Matt's. A fascinating character study told in a very unique way that I just can't stop thinking about--there is profound depth in this seemingly simple book.

--Jackie Blem of The Tattered Cover, a nationally-recognized independent book store


Recommended for young adult readers... Teens will appreciate Adelberg s easy-to-read high-school ruminations and insights.

--Katharine Fronk, for the American Library Association --American Library Association

About the Author

Michael Adelberg is a (mostly) reformed high school troublemaker and the father of three boys. He is a health policy wonk and author of numerous historical publications, including the recently-published Theatre of Spoil and Destruction. His demographic approach to historical research has been the subject of articles in leading journals such as the Wilson Quarterly and the Journal of Military History. He holds masters degrees in History and Public Policy, has received numerous professional honors for his health policy and history work, and is a literary fiction reviewer for the New York Journal of Books.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Permanent Press (January 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579622283
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579622282
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,107,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

By day, Michael Adelberg is a health policy wonk in Washington, DC; by evening, he is an historian of the American Revolution; about midnight, he turns into a fiction writer and reviewer. Sleep is overrated.

Adelberg is the author of publications across all three interests, including: the award-winning American Revolution in Monmouth County: Theatre of Spoil and Destruction (History Press, 2010), and three well-reviewed novels: A Thinking Man's Bully (The Permanent Press, 2011), The Razing of Tinton Falls (History Press, 2011), and Saving the Hooker (The Permanent Press, 2014). Visit his website, www.michaeladelberg.com, to learn more about him and his publications.

Customer Reviews

I didn't like many of the main characters all that much - but I didn't have to.
Jill-Elizabeth (Jill Franclemont)
We learn about Matt Duffy's life through the stories he writes for his psychiatrist to read before their sessions showing how his life has been shaped by bullying.
Shannon Pease
As an avid reader, I sometimes come across a book that once you start reading, you cannot stop, nor want to.
Winston "Churchill" Ho

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shannon Pease on January 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Matt Duffy is prompted by his wife to go to therapy after their teenage bullying son attempts suicide. Matt agrees since he has now been mentioned in the suicide notes of two very important people in his life. We learn about Matt Duffy's life through the stories he writes for his psychiatrist to read before their sessions showing how his life has been shaped by bullying.
I didn't expect to laugh as much as I did while reading this. Those laugh out loud moments are needed, however, to lighten the tension of the subject. Taking Matt Duffy's trip down memory lane was very relatable, even down to the pop culture references. I could see so many people that I know in these characters, including their behavior. The different degrees of bullying, even some that might be recognized as harmless pranks, are represented in realistic ways covering many current issues we see cropping up in the news. Like so many other behaviors this novel shows how bullying can be a vicious cycle that's not easily broken. The author manages to make a serious point while lightening it up enough to make reading it easier and at times fun. I recommend this one wholeheartedly.
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Format: Hardcover
My review copy of A Thinking Man's Bully, was provided courtesy of LuxuryReading.com, which also hosted the original (shorter) post of this book review on March 19.

Okay, funny thing - I have no idea why I requested this book for a review or what drew me to it. It's not the subject matter (an aging bully telling tales of his misspent youth). The writing was enjoyable, but I wouldn't have known that from a catalog picture/title. It may have been the catalog picture/title, come to think of it. It's a very cool cover - an old-fashioned segmented brain. And the title is clever and witty and urbane. Even the explanation of the title, in the context of a self-description from a rather unpleasant character, is clever and witty and urbane. You gotta love it when even the characters you don't particularly like have characteristics you do!

But I digress - wildly, as I am all too wont to do.

Back to the book. It is basically a collection of tales told by the protagonist, Matt "McDuff" Duffy, to his therapist in the wake of his son's attempted suicide. Actually, "told" is something of a misnomer. They are actually written stories submitted to his shrink in the course of therapy, because he - like oh-so-many men - can't talk about feelings, emotions, or self-reflection. It's a clever strategy, and fits the burgeoning writer inside of McDuff fine. It's also clever story organization, and fits the burgeoning writer inside of me fine as well.

I don't particularly care for McDuff's brand of man: a bit of a follower, a little too focused on being a tough guy, a little carefree and lackadaisical about the emotions and emotional needs of the people around him.
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Format: Hardcover
Matthew McDuff ends up talking with a psychiatrist after his teenage son attempts suicide. But Matthew doesn't really want to talk and breakthroughs only start when he begins to write instead--a less immediate but ultimately much deeper form of communication. Michael Adelberg's A Thinking Man's Bully takes the form of two short books--the Book of McDuff and the Book of Jack, built from short stories Matthew writes, conversations with his therapist, and his growing understanding of himself.
Does a bully see himself as a bully? Does a bully always win? Matthew's childhood friend, known as the Dog, is sometimes crueler, sometimes kinder than he, and Matthew's struggles to fit in make him cross many lines in search of himself. Still searching, still blaming and hiding from blame, still ashamed, Matthew confronts the past in these stories and his psychiatrist's hints lead to strength and peace for the present.
Are bullies really in control? Do writers tell the whole truth or just the parts that fit the narrative? Matthew becomes very real in these pages, his voice and evasions convincing, his childhood and friends very plausible, and the whole echoing with memories of everyone's growing up. The psychiatrist is a lightly sketched figure, commenting and leading him on. The resulting mix of dark and light, amusement and pain, guilt, wisdom and innocence, is perfectly painted.
"How do you see any positive outcome here?" asks Matthew when the writing's nearly done. But the reader's already beginning to see. Friendship is complicated. Life's battles aren't easy. Parenthood is a path with many dark corners. But light can illuminate past and present and show the way to the future.
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Format: Hardcover
A Thinking Man's Bully by Michael Adelberg

Yes, he's not really a nice guy. Yes, he's done some terrible things and most of them, he doesn't recognize. But when he does start to see the light with the help of his unorthodox psychiatrist, he manages to write what he cannot even admit to himself. The bits and pieces that even he begins to understand once they are written out.

I enjoyed this book. It was well written and made me laugh. It also introduced me to some pretty harsh realities of boyhood bullying. Caught up in their own world of self-interests as most kids are, they only focus on hanging on to whatever will give them the strength to survive, all the while missing out on some of life's sweeter moments.

There is a lot of pain in this book, much self-absorption and many chuckles along the way before McDuff manages to pull his head out of his whatsis and only time will tell if he can adapt to the fresh air of clean starts.

Read it. It's very entertaining.
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