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Fiction Ruined My Family: A Memoir Hardcover – September 29, 2011
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“A darkly comic account. . . Highly entertaining.”—The New Yorker
“Fiction Ruined My Family reads like a script for performance art, a rapid stand-up routine, careless and wisecracky, signaling moments for the audience to respond to a punch line by clapping. The tinkle of glasses subsides; the performer makes a grimace, takes a bow, goes on. Yet genuine pain is explored - for the dangerous ambitions of fame and achievement and the really dangerous distractions of carelessness with loved ones.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“The wisecracking, ultrahip but ultimately tragic voice in "Fiction Ruined My Family" — part stand-up comedy, part Lie Down in Darkness — is fetching and fast and fun, and it's only after you fully understand the trauma at the heart of her family, the neglect that bordered on child abuse, that the sadness kicks in.”—The Chicago Tribune
“ There’s nothing rare these days about a memoir of unconventional parents and a difficult childhood, but Darst brings freshness and often startling humor to her own story - which helps balance its more serious second half, in which alcoholism (parental and not) is decreasingly hidden behind charm.”—The Boston Globe
“[A] winningly snarky memoir.”—The New York Times
"The girl's got flair."—Entertainment Weekly
“Jeanne Darst’s memoir about growing up in a hard-drinking family with big literary dreams is hilarious, heartbreaking, and inspiring.”—Marie Claire
“In her memoir Fiction Ruined My Family, Jeanne Darst plunges into the story of her delusional family with wicked wit and fearlessness.”—Redbook
“High fives to Jeanne Darst for Fiction Ruined My Family, her tale of surviving an alkie blue-blood mom, a hard-drinking failed-writer dad, and her own inebriated performer/playwright/crummy-job dysfunction to write this seriously comic tell-all about her entanglements, with family, friend, and—of course—her bodacious self.”—Elle
“Darst has a brilliant eye for the absurd, sad, and often hilarious circumstances of her family life. . . . With cutting language, she chronicles the perils and joys of the writing life and her journey toward sobriety and truth.”—Publishers Weekly
“Fiction Ruined My Family had me laughing out loud, which I almost never do, with one jaw-dropping scene after another. On nearly every page there’s some sentence that's so perfect, in an old-school Oscar Wilde/Dorothy Parker sort of way, that it made everything I've ever written or said seem like dull, drunken mumbling.” – Ira Glass, host of This American Life
“Jeanne Darst’s memoir unfolds like a Eugene O’Neill play, with all the boozing and the weeping and the exclamatory self-pity. Only it’s also very funny, and it has a happy ending (more or less). Snap this book up.”—Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money
“As Tolstoy might have said if he'd survived the 1970s, happy families are all alike but every narcissistic parent is narcissistic in his or her own way. Jeanne Darst tells a story not only of family neuroses, artistic delusions and thwarted dreams but also of the nuances of social class, the tension between domesticity and bohemenianism, and the tragicomedy that comes from faking it but never quite making it. All my favorite themes! I also laughed out loud more times than I can count.”—Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House
“Jeanne Darst is funnier than a blotto WASP in a Lily Pulitzer wheelchair.”—Wendy Burden, author of Dead End Gene Pool
“In the tradition of the Mitford sisters' chronicles (but minus Hitler), Fiction Ruined My Family is both a very funny tragedy and a very sad comedy.”—Patricia Marx, author of Him Her Him Again and the End of Him
“Dazzlingly funny, gut wrenching and infested with writing that will absolutely floor you. Fiction Ruined My Family has ruined me—how will I ever be able to use those adjectives again and mean them as much as I do now?”—Sloane Crosley, author of How Did You Get This Number
“Jeanne Darst manages to evoke humor and despair in a single sentence. I found myself rooting so hard for her. Fiction Ruined My Family is a great testament to surviving and overcoming wacky parents. A wonderful book.” – Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof
About the Author
Jeanne Darst is a writer/performer who has written for The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, and performed her solo plays in bars, barns, and living rooms across the United States. An excerpt from this book aired on This American Life. She lives in Los Angeles.
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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.
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.