Introducing a deeply funny, charismatic new voice: an entertaining memoir of a family haunted by its own myths and its obsessive idolization of the literary life.
Jeanne Darst was born the youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated family long past its glory days. For the early part of her life, the family survived on the memory of past generations' grandeur and the romantic belief that Darst's father would restore that greatness with his destined career as a novelist. Within a few years, however, it was abundantly clear to everyone but him that despite the many years enslaved to the writer's craft and lifestyle, he was never going to sell a book. By the time of Darst's adolescence, the family was broke, and her mother was consoling herself with nightly booze-fueled weepathons, while her father was still too possessed by the dream to get a job.
Later, Darst realizes she has inherited both the gene for alcoholism and the gene for wanting to write, and she isn't sure which is more devastating. Does her need to write, to tell stories, mean that she's doomed to repeat the mistakes of her father, or can she find a way to move beyond her family's curse, and not have fiction ruin her life?
Now sober and a productive writer, Darst looks back on all those years with warmth, affection, and a moving degree of understanding - as well as wicked, deadpan humor.
©2011 Jeanne Darst (P)2011 Penguin
"Jeanne Darst's memoir about growing up in a hard-drinking family with big literary dreams is hilarious, heartbreaking, and inspiring." (Marie Claire)
"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)
I found myself repeating chapters because I love the way she tells her story. This book is honest and witty. The author reads the book herself which is sometimes a mistake, but not in this case. She has perfect timing and a gift for mimicry. Loved every minute of it!
YES. It's good and super funny.
Any humorous memoir about dysfunctional/weird families, such as "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" (Jenny Lawson), "The Liars' Club" (Mary Karr), or "Running With Scissors" (Augusten Burroughs).
I laughed until I cried.
I tell everyone they need to read this book immediately.
One of the best books I've listened to. Loved her voice, her insight and use of language.
Funny funny funny
Loved her parents' voices.
I'm listening to it again.
Haven't read the print version, but loved hearing the author's voice.
Liked hearing about the interactions between her and her sisters & the humor. The chapter about crabs was hilarious. The childhood parts were kind of dull; not sure why. Sometimes she is too profane. Profanity is an important narrative tool, but it is ambiguous and overused (in general, not just in Darst's work). As writers, we want to represent truth, and if a direct quote was profane in its inception, we feel compelled to reproduce it verbatim. A more professional (mature?) writer might better serve artistic truth by replacing the bland profanity with more specific words, even if they belie the conversational talents of the original speaker.
Some of Darst's strengths include original and funny descriptive phrases, and fresh observations on common human experiences: the idea that it's possible to struggle desperately to get sober, only to realize that no one cares, or the idea that the seemingly irrelevant historical/literary lectures of pedantic older men (fathers) are their weapons against the heartaches of life. The idea that artistic drive or literary ambition are destructive and dangerous addictions like alcoholism is perhaps not new, but freshly expressed.
It was over too soon. The original and climactic idea of thrusting Joyce or Fitzgerald ahead of one into the void was profound. I wanted a lighter note for the end, funny and more current about Darst, instead of her dad.
She does a wonderful job with the voices of her family, and her timing reading her own funny , original lines was delicious. It's always richer to hear the author's own intonation. It adds a lot to the poetry and interpretation for the listener to hear how the author wants a line to sound. Punctuation can only take the reader so far.
Didn't want to hear it all in one sitting because a.) I wanted to prolong the pleasure and b.) It was little intense and claustrophobic to inhabit her life so vividly for six hours all together. Wanted to get back to my own life between hearings. Heard the whole book over about three or four days while doing chores.
Made me feel better about my own weird parents.
The title alone made me want to read this book, and I was not disappointed. Fiction (and alcohol) ruin a lot of things in this book about Darst's coming-of-age, but her particular brand of humour, her truthfulness, and ultimately her compassion for her parents elevate and illuminate even the saddest parts of the story. A couple of times, the pacing of the narrative seemed off, but Darst is such good company, I didn't really mind. Very well narrated by the author. I was sorry when it ended. Write more, Jeanne!
This is a wonderful book, so very funny, it didn't deserve the snarky review it got in the NYT. And Darst reads it brilliantly. Worth hearing for her reading alone, but reader plus book = perfection. Hilarious and moving.
It wasn't life changing, but I don't think that the author intended it to be a great work of nonfiction. It's just her families story. It was very entertaining and really hilarious. A good encouraging read for any artist young or old alike.
The honesty really hit home for me. The humor was literally perfect. I got it. This book pulled me in in a rare way. I felt Jeanne's disappointments, her pain, her breakthroughs. Some of her decisions actually made my stomach hurt and I wanted to scream "NO!!!" Then I learned the most important lesson....we can't decide for others. We have to respect their choices and remain faithful.
I would be this author's friend in a New York Minute!
Obviously only SHE could imitate herself and her family members with the nuance and quirkiness that existed as she grew into a woman. I don't think her honesty would have reached me as well on the written page.
Although I deeply love reading, it was a pleasure to hear the author read her work.
Darst is a hilarious wordsmith with an incredibly painful task: conveying the slow, rotting breakdown of her parent's marriage, and the toll it took on the entire family. To be honest, I felt like a real jerk when I first listened to this because her abrasive wit was so hilarious that I couldn't get through a single chapter without laughing out loud and wiping the tears from my eyes while covering my face all at the same time. It took me a few minutes after it was over to remember that this really happened to the author and her family. Darst utilized humor all of her life to put her larger-than-life parents into perspective. Unfortunately, she fell prey to the addiction and erratic behavior she grew up with. When I listened to it again (keeping that in mind) it made me cry because she desperately needed guidance and attention from her parents for her entire life...but wound up constantly bound in front row center seats to the destruction of her parent's marriage.
The cadence and delivery of her voice.
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