Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully

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by Allen Kurzweil
     
 

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The true account of one boy’s lifelong search for his boarding-school bully.

Equal parts childhood memoir and literary thriller, Whipping Boy chronicles prize-winning author Allen Kurzweil’s search for his twelve-year-old nemesis, a bully named Cesar Augustus. The obsessive inquiry, which spans some forty years, takes Kurzweil

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Overview

The true account of one boy’s lifelong search for his boarding-school bully.

Equal parts childhood memoir and literary thriller, Whipping Boy chronicles prize-winning author Allen Kurzweil’s search for his twelve-year-old nemesis, a bully named Cesar Augustus. The obsessive inquiry, which spans some forty years, takes Kurzweil all over the world, from a Swiss boarding school (where he endures horrifying cruelty) to the slums of Manila, from the Park Avenue boardroom of the world’s largest law firm to a federal prison camp in Southern California.

While hunting down his tormentor, Kurzweil encounters an improbable cast of characters that includes an elocution teacher with ill-fitting dentures, a gang of faux royal swindlers, a crime investigator “with paper in his blood,” and a  onocled grand master of the Knights of Malta. Yet for all its global exoticism and comic exuberance, Kurzweil’s riveting account is, at its core, a heartfelt and suspenseful narrative about the “parallel lives” of a victim and his abuser.

A scrupulously researched work of nonfiction that renders a childhood menace into an unlikely muse, Whipping Boy is much more than a tale of karmic retribution; it is a poignant meditation on loss, memory, and mourning, a surreal odyssey born out of suffering, nourished by rancor, tempered by wit, and resolved, unexpectedly, in a breathtaking act of personal courage.

Whipping Boy features two 8-page black-and-white photo inserts and  83 images throughout.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Domenica Ruta
What makes the book such a delight is less what Kurzweil uncovers that than the self-conscious absurdity he acknowledges in his search. Social media eventually reunites Kurzweil with his tormentor, and the inevitable confrontation, like the story, is both confounding and deeply satisfying.
Publishers Weekly
12/08/2014
Childhood trauma fuels an adult obsession and an exploration of a flamboyant criminal caper in this rollicking but unfocused memoir. Novelist Kurzweil (A Case of Curiosities) was bullied by a roommate named Cesar Augustus at a tiny Swiss boarding school—being whipped with a belt is the worst outrage—and later in life set out to learn what had become of his tormentor. He discovered after many years that Cesar had gone to prison for his involvement in investment fraud. Cesar is a marginal figure through much of the book, and when we finally meet him, his impact is underwhelming; he comes off as an evasive and self-deluding hollow man with a repertoire of pathetic shady business ventures. But Kurzweil crafts an entertaining, sharply reported picaresque centering on the colorful leaders of the scam, who bamboozled their marks by posing as monocled European aristocrats and produced a fake deed from the fictional King of Mombessa, and on the investigators who caught them. The psychodrama between Kurzweil and Cesar doesn’t have much emotional payoff, but it makes a serviceable hook for a comic-opera true crime saga that’s ripe with hilarious humbuggery. Photos. Agent: Liz Darhansoff, Darhansoff & Verrill. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-11-04
One man's search for his childhood bully, who turned out to be far more than that.Sent to a Swiss boarding school run with clocklike precision at the age of 10, Kurzweil (Leon and the Champion Chip, 2010, etc.) endured a year of torment, especially from one student, a bully named Cesar Augustus. Thirty years later, the author's nemesis appeared as a character in one of his children's books, an event that triggered him to search for Cesar, as he still remembered the pain and shame of the verbal and physical abuse he suffered. Over the course of 10 years, Kurzweil became a master sleuth and discovered that Cesar was far more than a bully. Using the Internet and many other resources, the author discovered that Cesar had been involved in a major advance-fee banking scam, fronted by the Badische Trust Consortium, which involved millions of dollars, fake princes and knights, high-profile lawyers and gullible clients longing for the funds to finance their dreams. Kurzweil explores his longing to connect with and confront the bully of his childhood, who had become an adult con artist convicted twice yet still seemingly intent on scamming people in one way or another. His story reads like a European version of American Hustle, complete with men in monocles and silk ascots, fancy dinners in expensive restaurants and his own methods of espionage that he used to obtain information. His fast-paced narrative, with its rich details of the intricate nature of the scam and his uncanny ability to ferret out the truth, almost masks his underlying desire to talk to Cesar about that year in school. When he finally does, readers receive a satisfactory ending to this 40-year drama. Full of intrigue and suspense, the story follows the bizarre twists and turns of one man's journey to find and confront his childhood tormentor—ready-made for a film treatment.
Dan Okrent
Whipping Boy is like nothing I’ve ever read, an investigative memoir that’s honest, funny, sad, and edge-of-the-chair suspenseful. I loved it.”
Ricky Jay
“I enjoyed Whipping Boy on so many levels. It’s wonderfully conceived and wonderfully executed.”
Bookish
Whipping Boy is much more than the search for a bully. Kurzweil takes readers on a suspenseful and thrilling ride.”
Washington Post
“A fascinating, multi-pronged morality tale about victimhood, skewed perception and the liberation of facing your demons.”
Chicago Tribune
“A captivating hybrid of investigative journalism and memoir…Kurzweil is not simply settling a private score; he’s standing up for anyone who has ever been bullied.”
NPR.org
“Kurzweil does the delightfully unexpected: He morphs his story from a poignant memoir into a true-crime thriller.”
Tampa Bay Times
“A memoir that reads like a thriller as the author circles the globe to find the man who made his boarding school days a living hell.”
Details
“Pleasure-packed…makes the wily con artists in American Hustle look stuffy by comparison.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062269485
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/20/2015
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
330,901
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Allen Kurzweil is the prize-winning author of two novels for adults—A Case of Curiosities and The Grand Complication—and two works of fiction for children—Leon and the Spitting Image and Leon and the Champion Chip. A recipient of numerous grants and awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim and Fulbright Foundations and the New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers, Kurzweil is currently a fellow at the John Nicholas Brown Center for the Study of American Civilization at Brown University. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island, with his wife and son.

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Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good read until about half way through, then I began to lose interest. There was too much of the book about the bully's involvement in illegal money making schemes, and the lawsuit that followed. I found myself skipping pages just because it was boring to me. It got better toward the end again when he met up with the bully.