“The intricacies of family and the complexities of the games they play mingle wonderfully here in a memoir quite unlike any other.”—George Plimpton, author of Truman Capote
Katy Lederer grew up on the bucolic campus of an exclusive East Coast boarding school where her father taught English, her mother retreated into crosswords and scotch, and her much older siblings played “grown-up” games like gin rummy and chess. But Katy faced much more than the typical trials of childhood. Within the confines of the Lederer household an unlikely transformation was brewing, one that would turn this darkly intellectual and game-happy group into a family of professional gamblers.
Poker Face is Katy Lederer’s perceptive account of her family’s lively history. From the long kitchen table where her mother played what seemed an endless game of solitaire, to the seedy New York bars where her brother first learned to play poker, to the glamorous Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, where her sister and brother wager hundreds of thousands of dollars a night at the tables, Lederer takes us on a tragicomic journey through a world where intelligence and deceit are used equally as currency. Not since Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood has a writer cast such a witty and astringently analytic eye on the demands of growing up.
An unflinching exploration of trust and betrayal, competition, suspicion, and unconventional familial love, Poker Face is a testament to the human spirit’s inventiveness when faced with unusually difficult odds.
Centered on dead-on perceptions of the swirling needs, poses and cruelties of her family, Lederer's debut memoir is less Positively Fifth Street than an alienated New England version of The Liar's Club,and ends up with some of the best of both. Poet Lederer (Winter Sex) winningly tracks her siblings' improbable metamorphosis from New Hampshire private school faculty brats (and occasional degenerates) to world-class card sharks at the Las Vegas poker tables. (The transformation of Katy's father Richard Lederer from quiescent teacher to celebrated author of Anguished Englishand other language puzzle books happens mostly off-camera.)After parsing the class codes (and anti-Semitism) of her rich peers, young Katy becomes curious about her siblings' mysterious, money-laden reinventions of themselves, eventually following her brother, Howard (with their recovered alcoholic mother keeping his bettor's books), and sister, Annie, to Sin City to stake her own claim. There aren't enough of Lederer's blow-by-blows of learning to play among hardcore pros, tourists and "compulsives," but her descriptive gifts are on display throughout, even in the "ultragibbous" eyes of one of her brother's sports bettor clients. Totaling up her experiences at the $3 $6 tables, Katy chooses writing over poker, but while studying poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her mother and older siblings' massive accumulation of wealth disappears overnight, with jail looming. Despite loose structuring and too many sketchily detailed events, Lederer hones in on the family's complex relationship to games, money and one another and their efforts to direct the ebb and flow of all three, and will convince even the abstemious of gambling's deep power to alter relationships. (On sale Aug. 12)