Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The writing life

Book: Fiction Ruined My Family

Author: Jeanne Darst

Published: 2011 (Riverhead Books)

Pages: 303

Friday night my boyfriend and I rode over to a shopping center with a movie theater, fully intending to see Young Adult in big plushy seats that were not at either of our residences. But there was a Barnes and Noble store, too. And when he went, “Oh we have time to browse…” we missed our movie and read together instead. This is, happily, a regular occurrence.

And my whole point is to tell you that I fell off the book-buying abstinence wagon again. Damn those discount shelves. I plowed through Darst’s memoir because she’s so good at writing about destructive behavior as if it were as normal as her family treated it. She talks about her slowly dawning realization that she was decades behind everyone else in getting her shit together, and about how her dad’s failed author ambitions started the hairline cracks that grew into gaping fissures in their lives, and in honest detail about how she survived in New York while drunk on a waitress’s salary (it involved lots of mooching and bodily creativity when her shared hallway bathroom was occupied and endless peanut butter sandwiches).

And it was funny. I was laughing about horrible things, about her mother losing her skirt in a drunken stupor only to find it shoved up under her sweater, about her sneaking into her neighbor’s apartment to steal the disco record he always played, about her and one of her sisters making garbage bag diapers to make sure they didn’t spread any more pubic lice after they doused themselves in treatment, about how she always lied to her dad about what she was reading so she’d appear well-read and how that would just make him give her five thousand new suggestions and how that meant they never really talked about anything having to do with real life.

I buy, or check out, more books because they’re bricks in my wall that blocks out the void. They’re my solid proof that yes, something DOES matter in this world, and when I find writings about someone who’s discovered the same thing, it’s something I don’t want to put down until I fully understand how they found out.

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