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The Draw: A Memoir
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Published:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2017
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Description

A "What We're Reading This Summer" Pick by The Atlantic

The Draw
is a "spellbinding, coming-of-age tour de force" (New York Times Book Review)
about a boy striving to make his way up through society and out of a family that has been emotionally and psychologically devastated by economic misfortune.
Lee Siegel's father, Monroe, a kind and decent man, accumulates a crushing debt to the company he works for, a real estate firm that has been paying him an advance, or "draw," against future commissions. "The more he depended on the Draw to live," Lee writes of his father, "the more it shrank his life." As the recession hits in the mid- 1970s, Monroe finds himself without commissions, and thus unable to pay back his employer. Fired from his job, he is pursued by the law, loses his wife to divorce, and eventually declares bankruptcy. Lee's mother, Lola, confronting a bleak and tenuous future, experiences a breakdown that transforms her into a seductive yet vindictive adversary of Lee, her older son.
To escape his mother's bewildering manipulations and the shame and rage that his father's fate incites in him, Lee creates an alter ego elevated by literature, music, and art. As he stumbles through a series of menial jobs while trying to succeed as a writer, Lee dreams of the protected space of a great university where he can fulfill his destiny in his work. But in order to attend college, he has to take out loans, unwittingly repeating his father's trajectory.
Propelled by riveting stories and unforgettable portraits, The Draw weaves a defiant stand against a society in which, as the author observes, the struggle with money can turn someone's innocent weakness into a weapon of self-destruction. As much a flesh-and-blood parable of economics as an intimate memoir brimming with harsh introspection, intellectual reverie, and surprising evocations of sexuality—the way you handle money and the way you have sex are often mutually illuminating, the author writes—Lee Siegel's youthful odyssey is for anyone who has tried to break through the barriers of family, class, and money to the freedom to choose his or her own path in life.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
04/04/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780374714000
ASIN:
B01M0Q0P9B
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Lee Siegel. (2017). The Draw: A Memoir. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Lee Siegel. 2017. The Draw: A Memoir. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Lee Siegel, The Draw: A Memoir. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Lee Siegel. The Draw: A Memoir. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Jun 12, 2018 15:37:44
Date Updated:
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      • bioText: Lee Siegel is the author of The Draw, Against the Machine, Falling Upwards, and other books. A National Magazine Award recipient, and a widely published writer on politics and culture, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and their two children.
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title
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fullDescription

A "What We're Reading This Summer" Pick by The Atlantic

The Draw
is a "spellbinding, coming-of-age tour de force" (New York Times Book Review)
about a boy striving to make his way up through society and out of a family that has been emotionally and psychologically devastated by economic misfortune.
Lee Siegel's father, Monroe, a kind and decent man, accumulates a crushing debt to the company he works for, a real estate firm that has been paying him an advance, or "draw," against future commissions. "The more he depended on the Draw to live," Lee writes of his father, "the more it shrank his life." As the recession hits in the mid- 1970s, Monroe finds himself without commissions, and thus unable to pay back his employer. Fired from his job, he is pursued by the law, loses his wife to divorce, and eventually declares bankruptcy. Lee's mother, Lola, confronting a bleak and tenuous future, experiences a breakdown that transforms her into a seductive yet vindictive adversary of Lee, her older son.
To escape his mother's bewildering manipulations and the shame and rage that his father's fate incites in him, Lee creates an alter ego elevated by literature, music, and art. As he stumbles through a series of menial jobs while trying to succeed as a writer, Lee dreams of the protected space of a great university where he can fulfill his destiny in his work. But in order to attend college, he has to take out loans, unwittingly repeating his father's trajectory.
Propelled by riveting stories and unforgettable portraits, The Draw weaves a defiant stand against a society in which, as the author observes, the struggle with money can turn someone's innocent weakness into a weapon of self-destruction. As much a flesh-and-blood parable of economics as an intimate memoir brimming with harsh introspection, intellectual reverie, and surprising evocations of sexuality—the way you handle money and the way you have sex are often mutually illuminating, the author writes—Lee Siegel's youthful odyssey is for anyone who has tried to break through the barriers of family, class, and money to the freedom to choose his or her own path in life.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Jerald Walker, New York Times Book Review
      • content: "Brilliant . . . An assortment of lively characters, hard-edged humor, rich psychological portraits and searing social commentary, The Draw is spellbinding, a coming-of-age tour de force."
      • premium: False
      • source: Katie Martin, The Atlantic
      • content: "With uncomfortable composure and clarity, Siegel dissects his parents--labeling faults, diagnosing neuroses--and himself . . . I couldn't put it down. Siegel's clinical judgements and fluid transitions, combined with his almost humdrum childhood experiences, make The Draw an engrossing read."
      • premium: False
      • source: Scott Timberg, Los Angeles Review of Books
      • content: "The Draw is a kind of latter-day Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."
      • premium: False
      • source: Jamie Fisher, Times Literary Supplement
      • content: "In The Draw, thematic allusions to money abound: a moon full as a coin, the clink of his brother methodically counting his quarters at night, a dollar bill his grandfather liked to produce and vanish. The vanishing dollar anchors the memoir, establishing its themes and recurring preoccupations... It is the setting for a Greek tragedy."
      • premium: False
      • source: David Mamet
      • content: "The Draw is like watching a beautifully written car crash."
      • premium: False
      • source: Gary Shteyngart
      • content: "A picaresque memoir of ideas that zings and hums on every page."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from December 19, 2016
        In this powerful, jarring memoir, author and critic Siegel (Against the Machine) painstakingly maps the bitter familial legacies that shaped him. Suspended between parents with artistic aspirations—an ineffectual, self-effacing jazz pianist father and a histrionic, failed actress mother—Siegel bombed as a student and low-wage worker, even as his immersion in literature convinced him that he was destined for greatness. His attempts to escape the vortex around his childhood home propelled him to college in the Midwest and later to Norway, where he finally began to create a viable self. Eschewing the standard minimalism of the literary memoir, Siegel explores the psychological complexity of his family romance in layered prose, in particular the impossible demands of a mother who shrieks across the pages like a monstrous suburban hybrid of Joan Crawford and Blanche Dubois. Siegel’s vivid portrayal of this turbulent woman is so intense that the narrative can falter when she’s offstage, with friends, lovers and even his father fading in her absence. Siegel’s strong focus on psychological depth rather than the visible remakes his familiar journey from American boy to man into something strange, disturbing, and wonderful.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        February 15, 2017
        A frank memoir of money and the man.Culture critic Siegel (Groucho Marx: The Comedy of Existence, 2015, etc.) incisively explores his modest New Jersey upbringing, exposing more deeply the personal history he shared in a June 2015 New York Times op-ed piece, in which he confessed to defaulting on his student loans. Reaching back to his pre-college struggles, the author recounts the bleak tale of his youth, growing up a budding intellectual drawn to writing amid a dysfunctional domestic scene. Siegel's graceful opening description of the full moon shining like an "incandescent coin" subtly introduces the central role money played in the cataclysmic decline of the relationship between his failed jazz pianist father and unstable, "aspiring actress" mother, whom the author sees as driven together and, finally, apart by their "mutual vulnerability." The title refers to the arrangement his father made with the real estate firm who employed him as an agent, whereby he was advanced a weekly salary against future commissions with the understanding it would be paid back. However, the more he "depended on the Draw to live, the more it shrank his life"--to the point that, when sales didn't materialize, he eventually amassed a huge debt, which led to his firing, divorce, and having to declare bankruptcy while Siegel was in college. Thrust into ever more dire financial circumstances by his father and psychologically tortured by his mother, who "seemed to live for bitter emotional combat with everyone around her," the author repeatedly endured humiliation in an attempt to support himself and get an education. Beautifully portraying his resulting masochistic "dedication to suffering" as akin to a "Buddhist monk on fire," Siegel doesn't hold back in baring his emotional scars. Though filled with moving introspection and insight, especially into the intangible ravages of poverty, the book may leave some readers wanting: if not for forgiveness or acceptance of the parental inadequacies he admirably bested, then at least the balm of forgetting. An unsparing, intimate reflection on the many ways money--or the lack thereof--can tear a family apart.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        March 15, 2017
        Siegel's (Against the Machine, 2008) memoir is an introspective, honest look at his boyhood, with a failure of a father and a mentally ill mother, and its lasting consequences. (The title refers to the salary Siegel's Realtor father, Monroe, received against his unearned commissions.) When the 1970s recession hits, Monroe owes thousands, and things quickly spiral downward. Monroe and Siegel's mother, Lola, divorce; Lola has a mental breakdown; and money for Siegel's college tuition runs out. Siegel wanders from one menial job to the next, retreating into books and still believing he's destined for great things, even as his lack of confidence betrays him repeatedly. Although Siegel is embarrassed by his father, it's his mother and her emotional combat that overshadow everything; when she is present in the narrative, Siegel's writing is its most effective and visceral. Anachronistic scenes, in an otherwise chronological telling of the author's teens and twenties, combined with laid-bare writing, although jarring, have the effect of mimicking memory. A penetrating, if narrow, look at the psychological effects of family and affluence.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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A "What We're Reading This Summer" Pick by The Atlantic

The Draw
is a "spellbinding, coming-of-age tour de force" (New York Times Book Review)
about a boy striving to make his way up through society and out of a family that has been emotionally and psychologically devastated by economic misfortune.
Lee Siegel's father, Monroe, a kind and decent man, accumulates a crushing debt to the company he works for, a real estate firm that has been paying him an advance, or "draw," against future commissions. "The more he depended on the Draw to live," Lee writes of his father, "the more it shrank his life." As the recession hits in the mid- 1970s, Monroe finds himself without commissions, and thus unable to pay back his employer. Fired from his job, he is pursued by the law, loses his wife to divorce, and eventually declares bankruptcy. Lee's mother, Lola, confronting a bleak and tenuous future, experiences a breakdown that transforms...

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