Charly's Reviews > Sweet and Low: A Family Story

Sweet and Low by Rich Cohen
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's review
Aug 05, 2007

liked it
Read in March, 2007

In my first house I owned- a tiny bungalow that has since been abandoned -the neighbors had some outrageous family fights. These weren’t your typical domestic violence dealies between a man and his wife. Instead, it seemed the entire extended family would partake. Over time, I began to enjoy the theatrics. I would sit on my stoop, drink beer and giggle uneasily as this cast of characters humiliated themselves. So, it’s no wonder I enjoyed Sweet and Low by Richard Cohen.

Cohen is jaded over his immediate family being screwed out of their inheritance from his G-pappy’s Sweet and Low fortune. So, through brilliant prose (I thought he was an awesome writer), Cohen gives us an entire history of the artificial sugar industry. I have since read reviews by people complaining about Cohen’s use of a macro, sweeping history of things like Brooklyn and sugar to get his point across. For my two cents, I love that stuff. It’s probably why I can watch Forest Gump over and over again. I find irresistible the passage of time, the stream of decades rolling by as a story seems to hang on time’s coat tails. I am, after all, a history major.

As I already mentioned, Cohen seems to think his uncle and aunt and spiteful grandmother and a handful of mobsters screwed him. (I blame the writing style of Cohen for all those “ands” I just used). It’s hard to feel sorry for the whiny Cohen. At first I thought it wasn’t about the money. It was simply the insulting gesture of being left out that hurt him so much. But nay, nay. As the song goes-it must be the money!! After Cohen’s grandmother dies, Cohen’s parents are still raising hell for cash. Perhaps I’m dealing with a little class envy, but it’s just impossible for me to give a damn about inheritances. Inheritances are un-American. They are for wimps who tie on their yellow sweaters by the sleeves or powder faced British aristocrats fanning themselves. While I had no pity for Cohen, I found the break down of his family fascinating. The description of a family owned business that hits it big was cool. And, of course, I love stories about wise guys and corruption. I thought this book was going to be a kind of Royal Tennenbaums type comedy. Instead it’s about a rich Jewish guy snitching on his family for revenge. This brings me to my next point. Sweet and Low is like pornography for anti-Semites. The book pretty much lives up to every stereotype of the New York Jew in the same way that white racists crack up at sitcoms such as Sanford and Son or What’s Happening. If I ever get arrested in a drunken stupor and, God forbid, publicly go off on an anti-Semitic rant, I blame the influence of this book.

****Disclaimer: Charly Streetgang is not an anti-Semite and is aware that the book Sweet and Low is by no means an honest representation of the diverse population of Jewish Americans
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09/17/2016 marked as: read

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