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Half a Life Hardcover – September 15, 2010
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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From Publishers Weekly
Strauss's spare memoir begins with a confession: "Half my life ago, I killed a girl." Strauss (The Real McCoy) readily acknowledges the problems of writing about this event, the result of a moment's distraction-trying to avoid aestheticizing reality, questioning his own self-involvement, admitting to playing a role of contrition, even remarking that "...tragedy turns a life into an endless publicity tour, a string of appearances where you actually think in words like 'tragedy'"-yet a discomfiting tone pervades, and some of the author's concerns, such as those related to public perception, may alienate readers. As Strauss breezes through key events that span over a decade, he reminds us that life seldom involves the drama of deep atonement, epiphanies, unadulterated grief, or nightmarish flashbacks. A much more complicated mixture of selfish relief, sadness, and survivor's guilt informs the aftermath of unthinkable events, and what proves most frightening is the gradual awareness that one has begun to forget; forgetting contains not just the drive to move ahead, but also the fear of erasure. Strauss delivers an unexpected take on remorse with the maturity that only comes from earnest reflection.
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Although the accident was what insurers call a “no fault fatality,” the moment Strauss’ car struck and killed his classmate Celine, a girl he hardly knew, his life was understandably changed forever. Prompted to tell his story (he first told portions on This American Life) by new fatherhood and the realization that the earth-crumbling event had occurred half his lifetime ago, Strauss takes advantage of the perhaps unfortunate ability the accident gave him to introspect and proceeds to do so for 200 pages of conversational free-form essay. Remaining well on this side of overly sentimental, Strauss deconstructs the past 18 years and views them from every vantage point; he sees his embarrassingly self-centered thoughts immediately afterward and the premature graying of his hair and stress-related stomach problems of his late twenties. “Name an experience. It’s a good bet I’ve thought of Celine while experiencing it.” Strauss already has a few well-received novels under his belt (Chang and Eng, 2000; The Real McCoy, 2002), and his turn to nonfiction of a highly personal nature, a slow-release mediation on grief, is no less symphonic. --Annie Bostrom
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He starts out the book by saying that he killed someone and takes us through the accident. One of the things I will never forget about this book is how the girl's mother tells him that he is now living life for two. And he sort of did - he carried the memory of her and the accident through his life for many years and found himself thinking of her every day for many years.
This book is a very good, interesting read. It's also a fairly quick read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it is one that I will keep on my bookshelf for years to come.
That it took so long to get help, is very sad, but the author was able to tell his story, albeit too drawn out for my taste, but that's my opinion. If you've ever experienced what he has, I would recommend you read this as it will help you to realize that you are not alone, and that there is the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
live half your life with the knowledge that you killed someone. He describes what it is to live like that then how it is to have that relieved.
The writing is alluring and descriptive. I found myself taking mental note of his metaphors, memorizing the imagery he brought to mind, feeling as though through reading it, I also traveled through this journey. I thank you for sharing these intimate details of a life lived in the shadows. A part of this book will stay with me for a long time. Thank you for the experience.