November 14, 2010, - 5:04 pm

Book Review: “Never Tell Our Business to Strangers”

By Debbie Schlussel

I’m going to add to the trite saying about not judging a book by its cover.  Schlussel rule:  Don’t judge a book by its title. And I’m going to correct another belief in the worlds of publishing and writing:  not every interesting article or column is a book.  Sometimes, there’s just enough for a column or article, and anything more is ripping off readers to the tune of the cover price or whatever they paid.  Both of these are the case with, “Never Tell Our Business to Strangers: A Memoir,” by Jennifer Mascia, a New York Times copy editor.

Ms. Mascia wrote a short article in the Times about discovering her father, John Mascia, was a mafia killer, and she was encouraged to turn it into a book.  Big mistake.  Or, actually, the mistake was mine, buying the book and wasting several hours reading it.  I thought it would be an interesting, escapist read.  The title sounds cool.  The People magazine (and the source should have been a giant clue for me) review said it was a thrilling adventure into the life of a girl who discovers her parents are in the mob.  Wrong, wrong, wrong.  The only thing exciting here was the marketing, in which someone managed to sell the tale of your average American family of losers and scumbags as the life of the Sopranos.  Not even close.  The book lived up to neither its cover nor its title, except that Mascia should have listened to her mother when she told her never to tell her business to strangers, so innocent trees could have avoided being turned into this excrement.

The book was boring and redundant. I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. And it still wasn’t interesting the gazillionth time around. 

Mascia’s father was a low-life, low-level Mafia associate.  He dealt drugs, served time in prison for murder and drug-dealing, and killed a few people.  But the book wasn’t exciting.  In fact, her life was boring and pathetic.  And since she really didn’t have much of a story, she filled it with baloney.  One page was filled with the names of all the appliances and cookware her mother bought.  I could have filled a page of a book with the same info.  Who cares?  If I wanted to read the Williams-Sonoma catalog, I could have done so for a lot less than the price of this book. Then, there was the recounting of how a toilet overflowed and spoiled brat, Jennifer, left her mother to clean it up.  And there were many stupid arguments between Jennifer and her mother. Again, yaaaawn.

Then, there was how Ms. Mascia felt on 9/11, how she didn’t like George Bush, how she opposed the war in Iraq, and how her first boyfriend who liked Madonna came out as gay.  Um, I need a daughter of a minor criminal and murderer to tell me these things–especially that a guy who likes Madonna is gay?  Puh-leeze.  Again, I don’t care.  And neither will anyone who buys the book. The same goes for the repeated stories of the Mascia family having to move from house to house, apartment to apartment, after committing credit card and mortgage fraud and not being able to pay their bills. I could show you a million more exciting stories of Muslims funding Hezbollah and ripping off American infidels in Dearbornistan, doing the exact same thing.

While the book builds up to some sort of suspense that Ms. Mascia will discover some sort of huge, shocking info on her dad, there’s no “there,” there.  Instead, she blows her cache halfway through the book:  that she looked her father up on the Internet and then read court records in New York, discovering that her sleazy drug-dealer dad was also a guy who took men out to the woods or park and shot ‘em in the head, so they’d keep quiet.  Then, for the rest of the book we have to read about how her two parents–as unlikable as they are–are dying of cancer.  My own father died of cancer, and he was a saint who served his country, treated poor patients and the blind for free, and didn’t deserve to go from this painful disease.  That two sleazy, drug-dealing, loser parents died of cancer . . .  well, I just didn’t care.  Sorry.  Call me cold, but it’s hardly colder than these people who dealt coke and other stuff and covered up killings. And their own daughter was even colder, confronting her parents with affairs, drug-dealing, and murders, while they were dying. Whatta bitch.

And because it’s not exciting enough, we are instead treated to Ms. Mascia and how she discovered that her father was sleeping with her mother’s sister and that they were both cokeheads.  She recounts how she confronted her aunt with the information and how her first cousin is married to a Latino gang member.  She also tells us of her visit to her mother’s first husband, also gay, who lives in South Florida.  And then there’s her visit to her father’s kids from his first wife.  Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Mascia’s mother is Jewish and sprinkles a few Yiddish words here and there, but has absolutely no ties to the religion (Jennifer identifies as Italian, attended Catholic school for a time, and had a Catholic confirmation) or the parents who didn’t care for her marriage to a low-level criminal thug from the mob.  (Ditto for her sleazy aunt.)  Gee, I wonder why. Again, I didn’t need a book to tell me that, and I’ve already been there, seen that in “Goodfellas” (the movie in which mobster Henry Hill marries a Jewish woman and destroys their lives).  People like this–who have no connection with Judaism, but for the accident of birth–continue to gratiutously defame my religion.  No thanks.  The Purple Gang had more honor than these yentas.

Mascia’s mother is a liberal, who met her criminal thug Italian mobster father, while he was in prison and helped fight to get him out.  Frankly, we’d have all been better had she not succeeded.

And I would have saved the twenty-plus bucks I paid and many hours I spent reading their daughter’s awful book.  Time and money I will never get back. Don’t hold your breath for the movie.

“La Cosa Nostra”–as the Mafia is known in Italian–means “Our Thing.” In this case, Jennifer Mascia would have been best advised to keep her family’s “Thing” to herself.

FOUR MARXES PLUS
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15 Responses

When I want to relax sometimes, I go to the web site “Hulu” where I can watch any one of thousands of TV programs, or hundreds of movies free of charge with very limited commercials. They are constantly expanding their inventory.

Little Al on November 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Isn’t Hulu dead? I can’t login in there anymore.

    It used to be fun. And yes, if you really do need to know, I have broadband.

    Back to the book: the Sopranos was a lot more exciting than the tell-all book. The Italian mob were goombahs. And guys who are in crime for business are not saints.

    But you don’t need spend $20 on this book on a real-life Mafia family and a couple of hours of your life to know it. In this case, judge the book literally by its cover. Its no one’s business to read it.

    NormanF on November 15, 2010 at 3:44 am

LOL! I loved the honesty in this review.

The book seems like a metaphor (or mirror) for the current. stinking American culture.

There are no heroes anymore. Everyone is super-selfish and don’t give a shiite for anyone but themselves. It’s always all about ME!!

But my favourite…real, jerky DBs who identify themselves as LIBERAL, yet they treat everyone like crap and the cherry on top…I come from a family of murderers yet I hate that GWB, so love me I am COOL!!!!!

Ugh! When I go to heaven, I hope I am not stuck with these a-holes in the afterlife!!!! If so, I’ll just join the Church of Satan right now because it better be better than this!!!

Maybe they’ll give this boring broad a show after America’s greatest family (SARC!) The Kardashians!

Get me out of here….

Skunky on November 14, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    We have too little respect for people’s privacy.

    I think that’s why Debbie was turned off. Even if her parents were saints, their private lives are none of our business.

    We live in a culture obsessed with notoriety and fame and in which decorum and manners are sadly lacking.

    In that sense the book is more of a warning: some things are best left untold, for our own good.

    NormanF on November 15, 2010 at 3:58 am

      Norman F., I could NOT help but think about the author Kathryn Harrison when I read your post.

      Ala Mackenzie Philips, she wrote a book many years ago about sleeping with her dad. I always wondered why she would want to do that. Heal, I can understand but what did she serve by telling everyone about something she ought to have kept private?

      I was disgusted by her.

      Skunky on November 15, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Deb:

Ya know! There’s something called a LIBRARY where you don’t have to buy the book. You might have to wait in line before they can snag it for you, but it beats spending money on a book some stranger you don’t know, told you was good.

There is NO Santa Claus on November 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Deb:

    Ya know! There’s something called a LIBRARY where you don’t have to buy the book. You might have to wait in line before they can snag it for you, but it beats spending money on a book some stranger you don’t know, told you was good.

    There is NO Santa Claus on November 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    Reply

    I thought the same thing myself.

    Miranda Rose Smith on November 15, 2010 at 2:38 am

    I think there’s a case to be made that even duds are worth buying. If only to teach you life is rarely as interesting as people like to pretend. And so you know what to look for next time you browse the bookstore shelves.

    NormanF on November 15, 2010 at 4:01 am

the movie in which mobster Henry Hill marries a Jewish woman and destroys their lives).

Don’t you mean “her life?”

Miranda Rose Smith on November 15, 2010 at 2:37 am

    She meant their life. When a man and a woman are married whatever they do reflects on both of them. Trust me on this, a relationship is hard work and what you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.

    NormanF on November 15, 2010 at 3:46 am

Call me cold, but it’s hardly colder than these people who dealt coke and other stuff and covered up killings. And their own daughter was even colder, confronting her parents with affairs, drug-dealing, and murders, while they were dying. Whatta bitch.

Even if he murdered punks and potential informers, her father gave HER life and she owed him a little loyalty, a little gratitude for that. She should have let him die in peace, vicious punk or no vicious punk. She shouldn’t have put his affair with her aunt into a memoir, for the whole world to read.

Miranda Rose Smith on November 15, 2010 at 2:45 am

    The little thing about honoring your parents. No one says you have to obey them when they do something evil but its well to remember they brought you into this world and don’t uncover their nakedness before the world. What the Bible means isn’t seeing them without clothes on, rather the Hebrew says that you shouldn’t expose their sins and frailties before the whole world. That should between them and G-d. Leave them alone in peace. She could have done that much.

    NormanF on November 15, 2010 at 3:51 am

Norm F, no Hulu isn’t dead. It is alive and well, and is expanding its inventory. I have logged in recently. There are other free internet tv facilities out there as well, in addition to networks’ allowing people to watch recent telecasts on computer.

If you are having trouble logging in, maybe there is incompatability in some of your recent upgrades; that happened to me on occasion.

Little Al on November 15, 2010 at 7:19 am

Debbie,

One short paragraph should have sufficed to deliver your judgment of this book. That is… unless you wanted us to share the actual experience of your suffering by forcing us to read the 1000 plus words you took panning it.

Just joking. Everything you write is an adventure of sorts. But I’m sure you do have access to better books.

Arn on November 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

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