You kind of get the feeling that if Jim Knipfel sat next to you on the bus, you'd get up and move. But it'd be your loss. Sure, he's surly, whacked out, and often socially unacceptable, but he can't be beat for smart, bitterly funny writing on subjects as varied as scuba diving and suicide attempts. The author of Slackjaw
and a longtime columnist for the New York Press
, Knipfel battles idiocy (his own and others') and boredom as a way of life. In Quitting the Nairobi Trio
, he ends up in a psych ward after a botched attempt at ending his life with pills and scotch. Unhelpful attendants and randomly communicative wardmates fill his days, along with preposterously short weekly doctor sessions and rare family visits. Knipfel's memory for conversational bits is unerring; a simple question on his part is as likely to descend into violence as it is to end politely, and the result is a book that's hard to put down. Page after page grinds on in the black humor found only on a locked-door psych ward, and when the final illumination arrives--thanks to an Ernie Kovacs segment on a public television fundraiser--he can't even share it with his doctor. No classic happy ending from this author. Knipfel's viewpoint is definitely one-of-a-kind--and even fervent fans will agree that's probably a good thing. --Jill Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
A columnist for the New York Press, Knipfel is a survivor. Already legally blind, he is cursed with a degenerative disease, retinus pigmentosa, which is slowly robbing him of even more of his sight. In his acclaimed first memoir, Slackjaw, Knipfel chronicled his battle not only with that disability, but with an inoperable brain lesion that has resulted in seizures and incidents of severe, suicidal depression. With his latest book, he continues to document the ongoing emotional woes in his splintered life in heartrending detail. As it opens, he is strapped to a bed in the intensive care unit of Minneapolis General Medical Center after yet another suicide attempt. Knipfel remains very capable of cool objectivity about his circumstances, maintaining a droll sense of humor. While languishing in the "bughouse," he recalls the voices and feelings that drove him to drink, pills and general madness. Although he has lost the ability to read faces, his powers of observation are razor sharp, as is his uncanny ability to transform the most mundane situationDsuch as his scuba-diving classes, his battle with a rat on the ward or a near-riot among patientsDinto a laugh-out-loud episode. Inspired by the late comic Ernie Kovacs's Nairobi Trio skits and the mad rantings of fellow roomies, he concocts a scheme to win his release, only to watch it fall apart in another crazy fiasco. Knipfel's wickedly hilarious and nutty viewpoint is so captivating that readers will finish his book with regret, waiting impatiently for the next installment of a unique, courageous life. Agent, Ken Swezey at Cowen, DeBates Esq. First serial to Talk magazine; national radio campaign. (June)
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