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Let us all kneel before the Great Jay
on October 31, 1999
First, the good things: it must have taken courage to write the book, because of the possibility of betraying the privacy of the family. At the same time, the writing process must have been immensely satisfying. I imagine Jay finishing it, sitting back, smiling, and saying "If God takes me tomorrow, that's ok; the story has been told." In fact, Jay came to visit my college English class, and he told us that's exactly what he was thinking. I know how difficult it is to tell a true story about oneself in such remarkable detail, which is why the book earns three stars. But based on its execution, I'd rather only give it two. Here's why...
Is this book really about Robert? How many times does Jay congratulate himself on rising above a background that was out to get him? He went to Columbia, you know. And did he mention he's a writer? He throws that in so many times, you just KNOW he views being a writer as the noblest and most enviable profession in the world. The phrase "my accomplishments" crops up an awful lot, especially in a book supposedly dedicated to a mentally ill brother. Also, did Jay mention he's a writer?
And yes, the sentence structure was maddening (pun intended). A sentence can go on for an entire page, sometimes to such ridiculous lengths that I'd walk down the hall and read it aloud to my friends, just to show them with what I was dealing. I understand this problem a bit, though. I imagine Jay sitting at his desk with so much to say, afraid that if he doesn't put as much down as possible, as soon as it comes into his head, he'll lose it. So he erects a quick parenthetical fence and sends it down.
Basically, when I'd finished reading the book for my English class, I wished that Robert could come to visit instead of Jay. Much as Jay tries to overshadow him, Robert is the star of this book and a truly fascinating character. I realize that I only know about Robert through Jay's writing, so I respect Jay for that. But the book irritated me to no end. I guess I'm just not sensitive enough.