Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Honest Sid, Memoir of a Gambling Man by Ronald Probstein -- Book Review


"If you're going to live outside the law, you'd better be honest. This seeming paradox was the operating principle of Sid Probstein's life. Guileless and endlessly optimistic, he was known as Honest Sid around his stomping ground of New York's Broadway. Sid wasn't a tough guy, or even a bad guy. He just never had the patience for the "straight" life, grinding out a living at some monotonous desk job. He was the quintessential American dreamer, always sure that the good life was just one big score away, a man who never stopped believing in his own good luck, even when the evidence said otherwise. He had all the tools, he was charming, good-looking, quick-witted and decent, but he had an obsession he couldn't escape. Honest Sid is the story of an American archetype as seen through the eyes of his son, Ronald, who loved him, and who almost lost him. It follows Sid's adventures in the world of bookies and bettors, fighters and fixers, players and suckers set against the often-romanticized backdrop of Depression-era New York. It is also the passionate tale of the great and tempestuous love between Sid and his wife Sally, and of his son Ronald whom he idolized."

My Review:

4 stars out of 5

Even though I love to read memoirs, I was hesitant to read this book.  The cover was not that inviting, and the idea of reading about a gambler was also unappealing.  But, after hearing from others that this was a good book, I decided to give it a shot and read it.  It took me 2 weeks to sit down and force myself to read this book, but I am glad I did.  It was not what I was expecting at it -- it was better.

What I loved most about the book was the way in which it was written.  Ronald Probstein does an excellent job in painting the picture of growing up in New York during the 1920's, and the struggles his family faced during this time.  Through his personal recollections as a young boy, you feel like you are witnessing events he describes firsthand.  Not only is this a well told story of a family's struggle to make ends meet, it also is heartwarming in that is shows the father-son relationship, and how it remained strong, even through all the turmoil that father puts the family through.

And, to think the author, Ronald Probstein, grew up to become a successful scientist and professor at MIT, is amazing. It shows that even if you had a rough childhood, with many struggles, that you can become successful. Ronald aspired to be a successful scientist, and it is great to see his dreams came true.

Probstein does a great job in not candy-coating the ups and downs his family faced at the hands of his father growing, all while paying tribute to a man he loved and adored so much.

About the Author:

Ronald Probstein made it out of the Broadway street scene early in life. An eminent scientist, he is now Ford Professor of Engineering, Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of ten critically acclaimed professional books. He currently lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with his wife, Irène.

Disclosure:  I was given a copy of this book by the publisher, in order to provide an honest review.  My views/statements above are mine and mine alone.

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