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Madness Under the Royal Palms: Love and Death Behind the Gates of Palm Beach

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  • Posted January 5, 2009

    Leamer's Madness Under the Royal Palms is going to be a hit

    Given the name and uber wealthy playground about which Madness was written, I was expecting an oblique assault on an elitist and secretive sliver of society suspected of profligate spending, narcissism and caste systems.<BR/><BR/>Instead, I found that the book is more of an amusing anthropological study that offered layers of depth and insight into individuals, relationships and social groups. The result is a humorous parable with some heavy moral lessons. <BR/><BR/>Leamer used multiple sources to build a penetrating character analysis of some of the more notable Palm Beach residents who, as an aggregate, are symbols of the various cliques that define the essence of Palm Beach. <BR/><BR/>NON-FICTION THAT READS LIKE FICTION<BR/>While it's a non fiction work, it has the literary ardor, flow, and the readability of a sticky novel you can't put down. The structure and clever collation of the vignettes is a thing of genius; like a movie that presents a montage of time periods in a character's life, Leamer seamlessly builds the story, jumping from one vignette to the next, and then taking us backwards and forwards in time. As you move through the book, the building of the individual events sculpts the big picture, and lives are viewed through different lenses. The result is a story that comes together so artfully, that it's hard to believe it's non fiction. For this reason, among others, Leamer has become my favorite contemporary writer.<BR/><BR/>STORIES THAT WILL MAKE YOU CRINGE<BR/>As Leamer draws us into his world and follows the lives of the characters, like with Aesop's Fables, we cannot help but predict the tragic outcomes of the paths they have chosen. The irony here is that these are real people, illustrating that the tragic flaw of humanity is our inability to step outside our selves and get past the artificial world of our own construct. This is the real-life version of Faust, and a lesson in perception, misperception and mortality. Some of the characters were blessed with not surviving to read about their own catastrophic social failures.<BR/><BR/>KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES' IS NOT ENOUGH<BR/>Money seems to be the fulcrum in the lives of the residents, an ends and not a means. Greed is the corrupting factor that invariably crushes relationships, family, trust and trust funds. In a twist of the plot, however, money is the engine that fuels their existence, and yet it is still a limiting factor on the island. For the very privileged, social status is determined by caste, not wealth alone. You can keep up with the Jones', but they'll never have you over for dinner. The elite must maintain their exclusivity at all cost. The "caste" of characters is so colorful and the world so utterly bizarre, that it is hard to fathom such a place exists.<BR/><BR/>It's the American Dream stretched to extremes, at which point it becomes distorted and absurd. We get the special insight and understanding from an author who has lived among these people for fourteen years.<BR/><BR/>After putting down Leamer's new book, I was reminded of the profound statement that some ascribe to Samuel Johnson: "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good." <BR/><BR/>Leamer's Madness Under the Royal Palms is a must read for anyone aspiring to "achieve" the American Dream. This book might put things in perspective and make you a little more satisfied with your lot in life.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    Terrific Expose

    It is great book for both Beach and non Beach Reading. The author has done his research about Palm Beach residents. It is well written and absorbing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    How the other 1% of the population lives....

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. However, I must admit that I always enjoy getting a peek into the lives of the "super rich." It just goes to show that you can have all the money in the world, but it won't bring you happiness, nor will it get you into the upper echelons of society.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2009

    Great Book!

    Could not put it down. I highly recommend it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2009

    Great book!

    I found this book to be amazing! All the short stories are interesting and insightful. Explore the details behind the darkness of money. Please do yourself a favor and read this book. <BR/><BR/>In my opinion, we can't get enough insight on the things people with money and power and doing behind closed doors. So when you get your hands on this book, it will open up your mind to help you think about remarkable situations. Social devastation! Read this book! I would recommend it to anyone. -Cheers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2009

    fascinating

    I live in palm Beach and saw a copy because a friend of mine was mentioned in it and once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. It's absolutely fascinating and filled with interesting little stories. I don't think you have to live here to enjoy it. It reminded me of "Midnight in the Garden of Eden," only there were more characters in this one so it was a very lively read. Very definitely recommended for those who like to read about the rise and fall of the rich.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2009

    Interesting Read

    This book is a great read. It switches between history and current events. It tells the story of different people and how they got their start on the island and tells stories of thier lives. It is written so you feel as if you really know the people being discussed. The stories are so engaging and it makes the reader feel as if they are involved in the very exclusive scene of Palm Beach. The author lives in Palm Beach, knows these people, and has been to the parties so this book is almost like an entrance pass into a lifestyle that most people will never be able to experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    Disappointing

    I am familiar with this area of florida and even some of it's players and I was disappointed with this book. It was chosen as our book club book and not one single person got through it. I'm sorry, but it was really boring and didn't hold my attention. If it eventually got better, I don't know, I never get to that point.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Well Honestly!!!

    Most of these folks definitely do not have the heart of a generous thinking (although wealthy) Brooke Astor. The term self centered comes to mind.

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  • Posted January 18, 2009

    The Tragic Trajectory of a National Power Enclave: Exposure of Muted Malaise within the Mansions of Palm Beach

    As a chronicle of cultural decline, Laurence Leamer's exposure evokes Plato's counsel in the opening dialogue of The Republic on the enfeebling effects of excessive wealth on the integrity and concord of individuals and societies. The gilded marble tables that distracted the opulent Athenians from the just and good life reappear in the Palms, but by now they have distended to idolatrous slabs of oblation on which generations have been sacrificed. <BR/><BR/>Leamer captures not only the tragic trajectory of the rituals of this power enclave; he vividly portrays, almost cinematically, the visceral interplay of mind and body in its denouement. He reveals the muted malaise within the emotionally hollowed out mansions of Palm Beach, much as Orson Welles exposed the Hearst empire in Citizen Kane: Consumed by an imperious proclivity to usurp, the magnate's torso stiffened, frame by frame, to a brittle and lifeless statue, on object among other objects in his mansion. <BR/><BR/>In this milieu discourse is depleted of all vitality and substance. Leamer aptly compares Stendhal's observations on the cultural decay just prior to the fall of the French aristocracy, with particular focus on its cordially encoded censorship and tedium. <BR/><BR/> "In the salons of the gentile elite there has been a long decline into intellectual and spiritual decadence. Dinner at the B&T is a scene not unlike that described by Stendhal in The Red and the Black ... just before the French Revolution: 'In the marquis' dinning room, provided you did not make jokes about God, or priests, or the King, or those holding government posts, or artists patronized by the court, or all the established ideas and institutions... and provided, above all, that you never discussed politics... you were free to talk about anything you like...any idea with a scrap of vitality seemed gross coarseness. Despite polished manners, complete courtesy, and a desire to please, boredom could be seen on every face.' "<BR/><BR/>When an entire community is codified by commodity or the family crest, individual initiative, rectitude and character become endangered qualities. Its social assemblies remain incubators of bigotry: In Palm Beach four of its five clubs exclude Jews, the very people that has contributed most culturally and philanthropically to the island in the past quarter century, as Leamer rightly points out. Indeed, even before the publication of his book, Leamer himself was expelled from the alluded to club when compromising passages were revealed. Some will see Leamer's covert reconnaissance mission as betrayal, a tribal breach. Yet it is precisely this critical recoil that is his eminent distinction. If, say, a Korowai tribesman of Papua reproves the menu of his cannibalistic horde, he might be deemed nobler than the others who are about to bite into your shank.<BR/><BR/>Leamer's titration, to borrow a term from chemistry whereby a substance of known strength is infused into a solution to detect the concentration of an acid, will elicit further reprisals. For we are witnessing, on a microcosmic level, the last morbid twitch of a dying culture as we embark on a conceivably more meritorious millennium, less marooned in creed and greed. Leamer's expose of Palm Beach will have a healing effect in contributing to an eventual understanding of such anachronistic remnants, not unlike the archeological evidence of bones excavated in the former Roman Empire that indicate nutrition improved in vast

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 21, 2010

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