on October 9, 2011
I downloaded this book from Audible, read by the author. Not always a great thing when an author reads her own memoir, but a HUGE advantage when you're Jeanne Darst (of whom I'd never heard before Janet Maslin's NYTimes review). So I'm walking around with my iPod listening and cackling and sometimes helplessly gasping with laughter (husband watching wide-eyed--I am usually a pretty tough crowd). LOL has become a cliche but seriously I was LOLing all over the place (in my car, on my bike, throughout the home) This book is HILARIOUS, touching, poignant, inspiring etc but mostly HILARIOUS. I love memoirs and especially those by smart independent women who've had a spot of bother here and there in their lives . . . I've listened to or read them all, devouring them as they appear. But this is the best. By far. I don't envy Jeanne her home life, the years of having to parent her parents (and her therapist at one point). But I hugely admire her honesty, her wit, her unsparing clear focus on her own actions. And damn she is funny. The section on ahem crabs . . . words fail. Well they fail me, they do not fail this writer. Not a false note. Totally recommend.
on October 7, 2011
I am complete stranger to the writer and have nothing to gain or lose by writing this review, other than sharing something that I enjoyed.
I saw Ms Darst read from her book at BookCourt in Brooklyn, and got a sense of her "scrappy" personality and deadpan humor. I picked up the book right after that and finished it in two evenings.
I think this book is one of the best in the genre of humorous memoir, right up there with works by Sara Barron, Wendy Burden, and Haven Kimmel. Jeanne has some great characters to work with, particularly her father. One of the key insights is "Like all tragic heroes he has a fundamental lack of self-awareness." She also makes herself the target of much of the humor. She realizes that she inherited some of the traits of both her mother and her father, and is constantly trying to prove that "I am not an id-i-ot."
Let me give one example of a comical moment. Her sister Julia, her mother, and Jeanne are speaking.
Mother: "Oh for God's sake, Jeanne, you have lice?"
"Yes, but they're on our pubes," Julia said.
Mother: "This is what you get for going to a state school. Jeanne, why you couldn't get into somewhere decent I'll never understand. You're so bright."
Besides the humor, I like the writer's unsentimental exploration of her emotions about the decline of her parents, and her own struggle as a starving artist.
I highly recommend this book to other readers. Please buy it so she can keep writing and making people laugh.
Jeanne Darst has written a memoir for anyone who loves humor, insight, recovery, literature and/or writing. The fourth daughter of a writer-son from a journalistic family and a former horsy debutante, Darst is most assuredly not an idiote. Her father has the talent to be a great writer and the dreams to achieve it--but after two unpublished novels, he wastes his brilliance on researching F. Scott Fitzgerald for the rest of his life. Mom moves from being a depressive to a depressive alcoholic. Jeanne has to determine which family traditions to adopt and which to transcend.
Doesn't that sound gloomy? FICTION RUINED MY FAMILY is anything but. It is hysterically funny: "Your mother's not an alcoholic, she just thinks every night is New Year's Eve." And, "I have bad judgment, or no judgment. Like Lenny in OF MICE AND MEN, I pet things too hard and then hide the evidence." It is ribald--the book includes a lengthy segment on how Jeanne gets and shares a dose of crabs (it is quoted in other reviews, so I shall not reiterate).
And oh, it is poignant: "I can't help remembering this saying of hers, because not only did her life end not well, it didn't end badly. It ended horrifically, one of the worse endings I've ever seen to a life. And when this happens, when this happens to your mother, what do you remember? Which Mom? Which morning? Which nights? What do you leave and what do you take with you? Clearly I'm not here looking for day-count coins from AA. But is there something here that will work for me, that will help me find I don't know what? She no longer has to be or not be anything to anyone. She didn't get sober. She wasn't the mom I wanted her to be. I wanted her to fight. Fight. Fight. Fight. But she didn't, obviously. And it was over. So then why was I scanning the joint like it was my own brain: deducing the love, the anger, the confusion, looking for her, in death, to be something I could live with? We were here to clean out her apartment, to get rid of things. But it seemed I was actually here to acquire a mother."
This is a great memoir, reminding me in some ways of LIT by Mary Karr, yet radiating a completely unique voice. I look forward to reading more of Darst, or better yet, seeing her play, SALLY ON THE MOUNT: "She becomes a sex-worker in the meatpacking district but decides, amid all the art world craziness of the 80's in New York, that what she does is actually art...She adapts Orwell's ANIMAL FARM into a sexual act (can't use the term she uses because of Amazon restrictions) and collaborates with a man who calls himself Ken Burn on a seventeen-part PBS series called THE AMERICAN ANUS." Etc.
on October 22, 2011
If a biographer, especially an autobiographer, can be honest and frank, then their book gets a head start. Ms. Darst is fresh and real. I think that one of the reasons that her humor works so well in this book is because she remains unafraid of revealing too many embarassing anecdotes. She didn't spare us the interesting and vulgar details surrounding her episodes of poverty. Her wit and humor remind me of Nora Ephron sans ostentatious name-dropping.
on December 19, 2012
Love the title, the blurb, the cover art. Wanted to love the book. Author lost me after third (gratuitous) mention of girl-on-girl oral sex, description of a bowel movement in a doubled plastic bag and a long chapter about a tenacious case of pubic lice. Do I get the desperation around all of this? Sure. But Darst tried too hard, and "ruined this fiction" for me.
on January 6, 2013
Many reviews compared this book to Jeannette Walls' memoir, The Glass Castle, and I do think the two books are similar (although this one is definitely funnier). Certainly, if you liked The Glass Castle, you will probably like Fiction Ruined My Family.
It's somewhat of a tragi-comedy - Darst is able to inject humor into a childhood that was pretty heartbreaking. She is honest and doesn't sugarcoat any unpleasant experiences, both her own and her family's. So much so that I wonder if any family members are still speaking to her after reading this book! She doesn't spare any of them their most embarrassing moments being described in minute detail for the world to read! And, there are some doozies in there - i.e. if gross-out humor bothers you, probably best to avoid this book.
Darst basically lives her adult life with the sole purpose of creating situations that may result in great writing material. This involves rarely holding a steady job, living in squalor, and acting like she is 22 well into her mid-thirties. But, her strategy worked and she got a very entertaining memoir out of it all! Though this is kind of a fun book, it is well-written and more than just a memoir of drunken escapades.
For more reviews, check out my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
on January 19, 2012
I was so looking forward to reading this book. I really wanted a good laugh out loud book to see me through the darkest days of winter. There are some parts in the book where I chuckled or smiled, but the only part that made me run into the living room and read a section out loud to my husband was when the author and her sisters reenacted a TV movie about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, with the author unwittingly being cast in the role of Patty Hearst. That struck me funny since I well remember Patty Hearst's whole ordeal and tragedy does become comedy at some point.
A skilled writer, Ms. Darst has a talent for portraying the people she knows in a way that makes them stay in one's mind after the book is finished. It's been a few days now since I finished her book and I still can't get her poor mother out of my mind.
However, the cliche "some things are better left unsaid" applies to this book. I don't want to read about one's adventures with crabs -- and I'm not talking about the kind that are fished out of the ocean. There are a couple of other parts too, but reading is subjective so I'll leave that alone. I do admire the author's bravery in laying it all out there for everyone to read.
This book is worth its price in its treatment of the act of writing and the importance of language. To quote Ms. Darst who was referring to her father, "To ignore language was akin to ignoring the very person you were speaking to, rude, uncaring, unfeeling, cold. It was a way to connect and also to woo, to charm, to manipulate, it was a tool for love, for survival. Your words were you." In spite of all his faults, Dad did manage to pass along a love for language and books to his daughter so he's not all bad in my books.
Alcohol ruined Ms. Darst's family, not fiction.
I have a feeling that if I had listened to Ms. Darst read her book out loud, it might have been funnier. Her voice would have added inflections to the prose that only a human voice can.
I look forward to reading more of Ms. Darst's works. Oh, and the "Humans doing, not humans being." To Ms. Darst, that's the difference between NYC and LA. Clever.
on November 29, 2014
This book is an entertaining and easy read that is well-written and heartfelt. I'm glad her story was shared. Lots to think about and lots to laugh at. Preferred this book to "Let's pretend this never happened," which I thought was trying way too hard.
on March 5, 2013
Felt like I was talking with a friend over a glass of wine (or 5). The voice is sharp, often witty and self-deprecating, and as the book went on, a bit familar and redundant. This was an interesting take on a tough life story. I don't think it would be for everyone, especially those who might take offense at coarse language and glib self-destruction.
on February 11, 2013
I usually don't write too many reviews, but I read the bad reviews, and was wondering if those people had read the same book as I. This book is an easy read, it is a hilarious coming of age tale. I fell in love with Jeanne and could relate to her stories. The writing style and verbiage she uses is incredibly witty. I am hoping she writes more.