I’ve been delinquent in posting about what I’ve been reading. Rather than continue with the charade that I’ll eventually write full reviews for each book, I present a set of short reviews that should get me more or less caught up.
Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff
As part of the memoir writing class I took last fall, we read David Sheff’s book, Beautiful Boy, which tells the story of watching his promising young son struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. His son’s book, Tweak, tells his own wrenching story. When I read American Psycho a few years ago there were times I was so disturbed I sort of held the book at arm’s length and read through squinted eyes. I had the same experience with Tweak, amplified by knowing what I read was true. Tweak is not a perfect memoir — Sheff acknowledges some mistakes and missteps in the afterword — but it manages to convey the roller coaster of insanity Sheff went through as an addict, a recovering addict, and a relapsing addict. Unlike his father’s book (also very good) which mingles person narrative with facts in a journalistic memoir, Tweak is all raw emotion and craving.
The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
You think your mom was crazy? No. Not at all. Mary Karr’s mom? Crazy. As in “let me set your shit on fire and come at you with a knife” crazy. And yet Karr somehow still renders her with empathy and tenderness, describing her childhood in East Texas in this, her first, memoir.
Lit: A Memoir (P.S.) by Mary Karr
If The Liar’s Club let me peer into Mary Karr’s east Texas childhood, Lit, her third memoir, dropped me into her development as an adult and a poet. And consequently into her development as an alcoholic, a recovery alcoholic, and a Catholic (albeit one she describes as “not the Pope’s favorite”). I checked out Lit from the library, read it in a couple days, and then ordered my own copy. So much of the story resonated for me, and Karr’s phrasing and ear for dialogue make it a joy to read.
The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr by Ken Gormley
A massive tome at 800 pages, Gormley’s account of Clinton’s legal troubles, beginning with Paula Jones and morphing into the Office of the Independent Council investigation, reads like a novel. Contrary to what I believed in high school, when it was all going on (and I was a Young Republican), as well as what I hear today from some more left-ist friends (that Starr was a rapid attack dog out for blood), Gormley tells a very human story. That is, a story where everyone is flawed, imperfect, and probably underestimating their own flaws. Was Clinton an incorrigible womanizer who caused massive wreckage to his life and the lives of those around him by lying? Yes. Did Starr and his office operate at the edge of their charter, with little oversight or control? Yes. Should you read this? Yes.