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on March 24, 2000
John Callahan has written a fabulous book for almost any audience, mature mid-teens and older. One could call it irreverent and funny, morbidly funny in places. But it's much more than that.
The opener sets the tone: "On the last day I walked, I woke up without a hangover. I was still loaded from the night before." On one level it's the story of his life. We watch as he becomes addicted to chemicals at a very early age, starting with alcohol at twelve. We watch him cruising through his teen years, experimenting with other drugs. We learn about his adoptive family dynamics, his Catholic upbringing, his alienation from his father, how he was with friends, and his resentment towards his birth mother, who he feels abandoned him.
The last day he walked he was twenty-one. He and his buddy, also drunk and the driver, left a topless bar and drove into a utility pole at ninety. Callahan takes the reader through the most vivid description I've ever read of what it is like to become paralyzed in all four limbs, have sex as a person with quadriplegia, what the rehabilitation process entails, and how difficult re-entry is. For the first time I began to understand how critical a personal care assistant is for a person with quadriplegia, and how dealing with the vagaries of a state welfare program can virtually make or break one's ability to function.
He shares unusually open insights into his involvement with Alcoholics Anonymous, and his successful struggle to control his addiction, his triumph over self-pity. We follow his intense and persistent search for his birth mother, and his reconciliation with old friends and his adoptive family.
And finally, we see a gifted cartoonist and writer hone his skills, submit his work, and be rejected. Callahan shows us the real meaning of tenacity as he continues his craft, mostly at night, "his time." Eventually he becomes recognized and his sometimes infamous work is widely published, from Penthouse to the New Yorker. He relishes the thrill of creating.
In short, this is a sobering, instructive, yet humorous book about his life, and life in general, by a gifted man. On another level, it's a book about sheer guts, tenacity, and believing in oneself. Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot is a very easy read, and although first published ten years ago, its appeal is timeless. I strongly recommend it and thank my friend Dennis for introducing me to it.
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on December 3, 2000
I didn't pick this up strictly to read the autobiography of a quadriplegic, or to read a journal of a man's struggle with alcoholism. Rather, I was interested in the the life story of a man who has produced some of the most raw, funny, and disturbing cartoons I've ever seen. I ended up with all three.
The stories are very compelling; beginning with the car accident that left Callahan crippled and moving back (to his upbringing in an adoptive Irish Catholic family in Oregon) and forth (to his search for his biological mother), with keen insights along the way (such as the irony of how our welfare system discourages the handicapped from trying to become productive members of society -- with specific examples) and ending with a day-in-the-life snapshot. All throughout, we are treated to Callahan's illustrations and cartoons.
The narrative is every bit as raw as his cartoons. He doesn't sugar coat his alcoholism; nor does he shirk from talking about his relationship with The Big G as he tried to kick the bottle (uh... figuratively speaking, of course). He describes unflinchingly the bad things he'd done as well as the good; there is no sense of self-pity or holier-than-thou coming through. This is one of the few books I've picked up lately that demanded my full attention.
John Callahan emerges from this book as a very interesting man; a flawed hero worthy of our attention. I highly recommend it, and I'll be reading his follow up (Will the Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?) next.
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on December 25, 2008
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
At 23, also in a car accident, I became a member of the very unpopular club that John Callahan joined, a quadriplegic, although I have slightly more use of my arms.

I'd always been a very funny guy prior to my accident and subsequent to becoming paralyzed, black humor became a tool I used to put people at ease about my disability. I became an attorney after my accident, which only provided me with even more ways to utilize that sort of humor.

Over the years, in addition, I accumulated many humorous versions of relating the rather horrific and terribly frustrating events which had occurred to me over the years, many of which are, invariably, the same as Callahan's, e.g. problems with attendant care, dealing with various governmental beaurocaries, inopportune bodily function accidents, etc.

Within a few years after my paralysis, I'd almost become a "sit-down" comic with my repertoire of stories that "really shouldn't" be laughed at, let alone so loudly. I was more and more frequently told I should write my autobiography. However, having already read this book by John Callahan, I would thank the person and then inform them there was no point, as the definitive biography of a quadriplegic, covering the "Rehab" process, frustrations with governmental agencies and the Achilles Heel, attendant care, had already been written.

I kept 4 extra copies of this book, which I've leant out over the years, until all 4 copies have gradually disappeared. Many people have been educated as to some of the insanity of my everyday existence, but now have also come to understand why I'm a bit unbalanced. They now also know why I've not bothered to write my own version, as it would be so much work, and its already been done..
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on August 18, 1997
Whether you are an alcoholic yourself or only know of one, this is the best book you can get your hands on to help you understand the life of anyone with a drinking problem.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a humor book, or a self-help book, or as just another biography of someone who has overcome adversity, but in truth it is a book about a man who could be anyone of us. It is not a matter of "There but for the grace of God..." but that we are all, like him, just people trying to find our way in this world. Some of us eat too much, some work to hard, some drink.

It's John's story of his recovery which makes me recommend this book so highly. He takes the reader through his worst crashes and every painful moment of his time in AA so that we truly feel and understand what it means to have a bottle in charge of your life.

If you have a drinking problem yourself, or know someone who does, I would, to paraphrase John, take them by the fastest transportation available to the nearest copy of this book. It is definately worth the read.
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on October 11, 2000
It's amazing how nasty, insightful and funny are Callahan's cartoons. In this book he relates the incidents that turned him into an alcoholic quadriplegic -and into one of the least PC humorists alive.
The book is very honest. Callahan don't put the blame of his miseries on external factors (unless when it comes to burocracy, and how the system penalize those who try make a living by working). He takes full responsibility of his mistakes and actions.
The book is extremely well written and easy to read. Callahan presents us his childhood, his drinking days and his insecurities in love as a teenager, the stupid accident, how he had to learn to live as quadriplegic, even more drinking years, his decision to take control of his life, the experience at AA, the search for his real mother, the ideas behind his cartoons and the reactions received, the frustration with welfare, and -of course- several of his cartoons.
Highly recommended.
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on October 19, 2000
This autobiography goes far beyond the sentimentality one would expect from a quadriplegic who stuggles against adversity. It is a testament to the raw wit and brutal honesty of a very talented cartoonist and writer. For example: "Boy if I ever get to heaven, I'm not going to ask for a new pair of legs like the average quad does. I'm going to ask for a dick. I can feel the idea promoted in rehab of the socially well-adjusted, happily married quad made me sick."
The only disappointment is his account of joining Alcoholics Anonymous and his passive acceptance of AA dogma - something that doesn't seem to jive with his critical-thinking mindset. For instance, he talks of his AA sponsor's God named "Chuckie." Still, this is a great book - a lively account of a brave, witty, talented and outrageous man. He does James Thurber proud. As a paraplegic, I identify with his story and the wonderful way he tells it.
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on March 21, 1998
Callahan is simply incredible. Never before could such a man who so obviously has so many faults be considered a hero. At my high school, Callahan has become a cult hero on level with South Park. But Callahan's story is more than his sick and demented humor. He overcame a lot to just be himself. This isn't a self-help book nor is it a typical autobiography of a noted comedian. Callahan is something special. He overcame adversity so deep and so self-inflicted that at times it seems like John himself is the only one who could overcome it. In this book, he shows his glaring weaknesses and for it endears himself to his readers. This book is not only Callahan's finest, but it is also a triumph of humanity. Callahan proves over and over again through the book that sometimes the best thing you can do is forgive him for being himself. Just like you need to forgive everyone for being themselves.
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on April 16, 1998
I was thoroughly impressed with this book, but even more so, I was impressed with John. At the beginning of the book he came across as hostile and belligerant, but I soon realized that traits that we might otherwise assume are negative helped him to not only recover, but to flourish. I appreciate John's candidness and his willingness to share his inspiring story with others. Thanks, John.
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on July 15, 1996
As a qudriplegic and a writer, I confirm John Calahan's portrayal of life with paralysis as authentic and exposing.
He tackles the tough subjects---sex, bodily functions, and relationships---with absorbing detail and discussion.
His humor never needles the reader. In fact, it becomes an expected feature of the book and endures us to Calahan even more.
Perhaps most exhaustive is Calahan's struggle with alcoholism. It is his personal delimma, but it can ask a lot from a reader with other purposes.
Still, it is a explorative look at the tragedy of paralysis and one person's survival.

Wade Stinson
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on June 19, 1998
This is the funniest book yet. I actually fell to the floor laughing several times! The book is also illuminating about people in wheelchairs - gives one a better understanding of their life experience and their views.
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