From Publishers Weekly
Novelist Brown (Lucky Town; Hot Wire; etc.) mines the explosive territory of his own harsh and complicated life in this gut-wrenching memoir. The youngest child of a mentally ill mother and an absent father, Brown (b. 1957) grew up in the shadow of Hollywood with two older siblings: a brother, a moderately successful actor until his suicide at 27, and a sister who also dreamed of acting but took her life at 44. Brown's tales are harrowing: at five, he and his mother traveled from their San Jose home to San Francisco, where she set an apartment building ablaze. Arson couldn't be proven, but she was imprisoned for tax evasion. At nine, he shared his first drink and high with his siblings; when he was 12, a neighbor attempted to molest him; by 30 he was an alcohol- and cocaine-addicted writer-in-residence. During his marriage's early years, Brown often left his wife to feed his addictions, repeatedly promising her he'd reform. Desperate to fuel his writing career, he attempted screenwriting, but everything he pitched seemed too dark. Brown's genius compels readers to sympathize with him in every instance. Juxtaposed with the shimmery unreality of Hollywood, these essays bitterly explore real life, an existence careening between great promise and utter devastation. Brown's revelations have no smugness or self-congratulation; they reek of remorse and desire, passion and futility. Brown flays open his own tortured skin looking for what blood beats beneath and why. The result is a grimly exquisite memoir that reads like a noir novel but grips unrelentingly like the hand of a homeless drunk begging for help.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Novelist Brown adopts a blatantly confessional tone in his memoir of growing up with an emotionally disturbed mother and then drifting with his brother and sister into addiction even as he crafted award-winning stories. Looking back from the uncertain shore of sobriety, Brown alternates between his troubled childhood and even more troubling adulthood. In tragically tough prose, he details how he screwed over his first wife, children, sister, writing students, and agent--all while feeding addictions to booze, crank, and novels by hustling hollow teaching and scriptwriting gigs. But this feels like a tale written more for cash and catharsis than for connection. Brown says meeting his second wife changed his life and then keeps the process to himself, omitting the third act. Even though his is a story of selfishness selfishly told, Brown's blackout days make for a darkly alluring read. This is the kind of book that becomes an underground classic for all the wrong reasons. Frank SennettCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved