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An Inspiring Read
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.