Monday, May 06, 2013

Bookshelf: Half Dozen Memoirs, Starring Michael Hainey, Eddie Sarfaty, David Sedaris and More

Finally finished reading Michael Hainey's memoir, "After Visiting Friends," last night. I've mentioned before that the story seems custommade for me and my brothers -- the father of a Neil Diamond/Bob Newhart/Gordon Lightfoot-referencing editor had died under puzzling circumstances when the author was a young boy, so he tries to solve the mystery decades later -- but my reaction was more ambivalent than I had expected. I never really got used to Hainey's choppy, present-tense style, which reads like it had been written in indviduals tweets, 140-characters or less at a time. And without giving too much away, what he uncovers in his "investigation"  is hardly earth-shattering or even mildly surprisingly. (It's definitely not one of those kinds of memoirs.) Still, having "lost" my father at the same age under equally mysterious circumstances, and always wishing I had tried to get to the bottom of my dad's brain injury before everyone who might have known what happened that night had died,  it was hard for me not to want to see his story through. I'm not entirely convinced others will feel the same way -- relating to your storyteller is important, and you get the feeling Hainey is not being completely open about who he is here, likely a byproduct of his fathereless existence -- but overall I enjoyed it. Download HERE.

"Mental," by out stand-up comedian Eddie Sarfaty, is another one I have conflicting emotions about. The first three essays were laugh-out-loud HILARIOUS! As I was digging in, my first thought was: How did this guy not unseat David Sedaris as the great humorist of our time -- or at least become a critic's darling? (The book was released in 2009 and there has been no follow-up.) But the next six chapters were wildly uneven, and I found myself wishing on numerous occasions that these stories had been edited down -- A LOT -- with the ongoing hope that the next one would be as good as the first few. Writing is entirely subjective, of course, so you may feel differently. But for whatever reason, I came away feeling he wasn't entirely living up to his potential. Download HERE.

Got through the first six essays of David Sedaris' "Let's Explore Diabetes" yesterday while doing some laundry. (I normally do drop-off fluff 'n' fold, but Michael was away for the day so I decided to wash bedding and towels and read at the laundromat for a couple hours.) Being the sycophant Sedaris fan that I am (was?), I've been surprised by the lack of laughs so far. There was a touching story about being a gay youth, so perhaps this signifies a new era in his writing. Full review TK. Download HERE.

I got Chip St. Clair's memoir, "The Butterfly Garden," in the mail on Friday. There's a tie to my childhood in this one, but until I read it, I will leave you with the description: 
 Fear rocked Chip St. Clair's world. As a boy, he never knew what would set his father off--maybe the ice cubes had melted in his glass of Tab, maybe dinner was overcooked or undercooked or the gravy was too runny. Regardless, the beatings always came. As did the twisted games of cat and mouse--being thrown from a rowboat into frigid Lake Michigan, the middle-of-the-night moves to different states, or being left to dangle over a ten-story balcony while his father watched from inside. But one fateful night when the police answered the call, the truth came to light from the shadows, sparking national headlines: Chip St. Clair's entire life--his name, even his date of birth--had been a lie, and the man he called 'Dad' was an impostor, an escaped child killer who had been on the run for over two decades. The stunning revelation would send one of America's Most Wanted to justice and another on a quest for his true identity. Download HERE.

I'm only vaguely familiar with comedian Dave Hill. But his "Tasteul Nudes" was recommended to me, so I bought a copy at McNally-Jackson Books in Soho. (Fuckers charged me 27 bucks -- no wonder people shop online!) Download (for way less) HERE.

  I found out about Mark Brennan Rosenberg's "Eating My Feelings" after he penned a controversial essay on why New York isn't as great as you think it is. His book comes out Aug. 6 (pre-order HERE), but it's his highly unusual Kickstarter campaign that's making the rounds nowadays. The former fattie is hoping to raise $10,000 to fund a 30-city book tour. More info HERE.


Butch said...

You know, the previous Sedaris book - I've gone blank on the name but it has animals in the title - was so persistently unfunny and in fact depressing that I gave it away when I was about halfway through. I just couldn't keep reading it. Sorry to hear that this new one seems about the same.

dishy said...

Yo Butch, you beat me to the punch. I had to even think twice before ordering this one because the squirrel & chipmunk was SO bad. Of course I did order it!

Butch said...

Probably a little late to be posting this but I will never laugh harder in my life than the scene in which Sedaris and his French class are trying to explain Easter, and invent the "rabbit of Easter."