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Sweet and Low Paperback – Illustrated, March 20, 2007
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“A small classic of familial triumph, travail and strife, and a telling--and often hilarious--parable about the pursuit and costs of the American dream . . . recounted with uncommon acuity and wit.” ―Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“How decadent to indulge in Rich Cohen's rollicking account of his family and the business it built. . . . Cohen has a terrific eye for detail, the little things that affix people and places in our memories, the gestures and miscues that shape family history. . . . It's a guilty pleasure--sort of like sugar without calories.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“A wildly addictive, high-octane narrative. Cohen sashays with boisterous panache from the history of the sugar trade to grandmother Betty's brooch. . . . He moves from journalistic objectivity to the intensely personal with ease, enjoying the kind of access that historians almost never get.” ―The Washington Post
“It is Cohen's good fortune to be on the side of the family that was disinherited. Sweet revenge is the energy behind this glorious book.” ―Time
“Cohen tells a fascinating story about family bonds in his quest to discover why his mother was cast out. His skewering of his relatives is merciless. . . . Plenty of writers have dissected their less-than-perfect families.Dealing with the issue with this much heart, though--that's extraordinary.” ―People
“This book is an absolute pleasure: expansive, fascinating, funny and full of historical tidbits to read aloud to anyone around.” ―Salon.com
“Never less than fascinating . . . Sweet and Low might as well be a Balzacian nineteenth-century novel complete with a crisis, a contested will, and a tragic resolution.” ―Los Angeles Times
“Unfailingly entertaining . . . Echoes the cadences of such literary antecedents as Saul Bellow.” ―The Wall Street Journal
“Cohen writes entertainingly, lining up characters like objects in a curio cabinet. . . . He is an unusually nimble writer, capable of casually broaching grander themes. By balancing his more ambitious material with Eisenstadt family lore, and moving the drama away from the money he'll never see, he makes the story of Sweet'N Low something more than just a pleasant taste that lingers in the mouth.” ―The New York Observer
“Cohen is one talented storyteller, and Sweet and Low is a great read. . . . Cohen also offers good servings of history on related topics--the sugar trade, the diet craze, the migration of Jews to New York--much of which provides a helpful backdrop to the story. At the heart of this tale is his family, a cast of characters who, owing to Cohen's gifts as a writer, are neither lionized nor demonized.” ―Library Journal
About the Author
Rich Cohen is the author of Tough Jews, The Avengers, and Machers and Rockers, and the memoir Lake Effect. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, among many other publications, and he is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. He lives in New York City.
- Publisher : Picador; First edition (March 20, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312426011
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312426019
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.72 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #462,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Rich is a grand storyteller and this is the story of his family. It's a colorful family that Rich traces from the Patriarch's childhood through his death. Rich paints a picture of each person's peculiarities as seen from various family members yet stays focused on the life of the business and sad life of how various family conflicts were managed and tore them apart. The author's mother was excluded from inheriting her share of the business or any family assets. How could this happen? How could a family with hundreds of millions in assets decide not to give one nickel to one of the upstanding and successful children? This is where Rich begins the story and as he writes in the end of the introduction "To be disinherited is to be set free." (p. xii)
Through reading this manuscript, you will find yourself swept into the culture of this immigrant roots of the patriarch's family who was born in New York in 1906. You will learn the character of the family members and be taken through the critical decisions both in the business and the family up to the present day.
Perhaps what's most interesting is the author's description of family dynamics. For example he writes "Betty (the wife of the patriarch) can marry well, support her mother and father, fill the world with children, and it's still not enough." He explains that as a child no matter what Betty in her family, it was not enough to raise the depression of the family circumstances and how this may have impacted her character.
Shortly after Marvin, the oldest son began working in the factory, he was given half the shares of the company. But of course there are two kinds of stock (Class A - voting stock which is where the control and power is and Class B - non-voting or common stock). Of course Marvin was given non-voting stock that way Ben (the patriarch) could give without giving. "This distribution mimics the dynamics of the family. Map the stock and you map the love." (p. 78). Was this related to what happened in 1993 where Marvin was arrested and charged with tax evasion and criminal conspiracy?
As a student and coach of family businesses for now close to twenty years. I can only say Halleluyah for an absolutely illuminating story of how families sometimes interact in business and how us professionals can help save or be a bridge for a healthy family and business.
A lively account of an interesting family. Ultimately, the determinedly irreverent, self-consciously smart-aleck tone of the narrator begins to pall. Anyone so determined to be clever, and to draw attention to their cleverness, runs a high risk of exhausting the reader's sympathy: about two thirds of the way through this book, I had the strong sensation of being seated next to someone in a plane whose anecdotes, though amusing, are nowhere near as amusing as their author seems to think.
The abuse of footnotes makes David Foster Wallace look like a model of restraint. Dude - do you have any idea how unintelligible and irritating those nested footnotes spanning several pages are?
The prevailing obsession with his own cleverness prevented me from giving it a fourth star; nonetheless, it's a pretty decent read.