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A Way of Life, Like Any Other

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  513 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
The hero of Darcy O'Brien's A Way of Life, Like Any Other is a child of Hollywood, and once his life was a glittery dream. His father starred in Westerns. His mother was a goddess of the silver screen. The family enjoyed the high life on their estate, Casa Fiesta. But his parents' careers have crashed since then, and their marriage has broken up too.

Lovesick and sex-crazed

Unknown Binding, 149 pages
Published January 1st 1977 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Disappointed to be let down by this one; it sounded so up my alley. Another reviewer here has astutely observed that "the pleasure is all in the voice," but unfortunately, as the narrative progressed I found the narrative voice less and less a source of pleasure and more and more of, well, active annoyance.

To be sure, O'Brien's wryly detached viewpoint combined with his clean, crystalline prose style makes for several extremely arresting opening chapters, and the staidness of his perspective in
Dec 26, 2012 Vale rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition anche una storia come le altre e un narratore niente affatto speciale. Mi aspettavo di più da questo libro dalla copertina patinata e da una quarta in cui si paragona l'autore a Salinger.
Se c'è una ragione per leggerlo può essere solo per le descrizioni della vecchia Hollywood poiché lì sì, che la storia diviene intrigante in quanto fonte di atmosfere dimenticate.
I capitoli sono suddivisi per luoghi, ma manca un filo conduttore e ci si chiede cosa voglia raccontare e perché abbia sentito l
Eddie Watkins
Mar 14, 2011 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
Deceptively light and breezy memoir-charged novel of a teenage boy and his broken dysfunctional Hollywood family - mother a sex fiend, father a fat washed up star - its dry humor delivered by darting serpentine sentences evading a largely unspoken (though felt) emotional gravity. Set in the 50's (I think), but written in the 70's, it lulls you with a period propriety only to shed its gentlemanly nature to land a devastatingly funny "cock" or "fuck".

Bought this 11 years ago when in LA. Read this
The pleasure is all in the voice. This unshockable, worldly-wise Hollywood teen, with his droll perceptions about his once-successful parents and their rich, hi-gloss friends, is so well-drawn that he bears comparison with Holden Caulfield - and that's the highest praise I can think of. For me, though, the performance is marred by just TOO much ennui creeping in at the middle, and a jarring note of real bitterness at the end. If Salinger is Cote D'Or Burgundy, this is a $100 bottle of California ...more
Oct 26, 2007 Tosh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I live in Los Angeles, I am fond of tales about Hollywood life - especially from the 20's through the 60's - and this novel (or is it really a memoir?) is about a child being raised by a Hollywood couple during the golden era of Hollywood. It covers the high and low and is a remarkable book.
Mar 02, 2011 J. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: la-la-land

When you think about it, there was never any good reason to expect that the two or three golden generations of the original Hollywood empire should have been at all cultivated, poised, sensible or even polite. They were the living definition of a "ragtag bunch" that succeeded, alongside a unimaginably explosive new medium, often on the vaudvillian talents of looking good, cracking wise, and having the nerve to try.

So it's not too surprising to know that quite often the practitioners -- whether a
Oct 12, 2010 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be taught in a creative writing course entitled Comic Irony 101. Bravura scenes of Old Hollywood in decline, and a tenderness and sympathy that's missing from a lot of celebrity kid memoirs. Vicious in its own way, too, especially in how it gives its characters enough narrative rope to hang themselves. It's the voice that will get you here, a detached decadence that seems like pure California, minor domestic horrors colored with humorous LA sunshine. Seriously, if you're sufferi ...more
Ed Ward
Apr 15, 2017 Ed Ward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. 150 pages of dynamite. I indulged a long-held desire last year and ordered a
bunch of "collections" from NYRB Books, and one was the Hollywood
collection because I wanted to read Eve Babitz' book. This was in
that bundle, and since I'd never heard of it, I never really looked
at it. Bad mistake.

It's essentially a twisted bildungsroman about the son of two faded
Hollywood stars growing into teenhood as his mother and father --
divorced, of course -- hit the skids. O'Brien's parents were George
Sad and funny. I hope the author, Darcy O'Brien did not base his book, A Way Of Life, Like Any Other! On his own life. The narrator is the adolescent son of two faded film stars, self-absorbed and self-centered, far more interested in their own lives and emotional states to care for their son. They use him when convenient and otherwise forget about him. For his part, the son takes care of them better than they do of him and patches together a life for himself. This description, however, does not ...more
Jan 27, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The adolescent boy who narrates the book witnesses the absurdities of his parents (Hollywood has-beens) and their friends. He describes the modulations in his attitude towards their bizarre behavior with an almost clinical detachment, charting his moments of tolerance, disrespect, humor and love, refusing to place judgment on his own behavior just as in the end he refuses to censure the heroic irresponsibility of his mother and the unthinking narrowness of his father. At times, the way he hides ...more
Nov 26, 2014 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
Good fun, but I I'm not sure that I really understood his father. I was OK until the end ... would he really have stolen that ring? Or is the point that the son has become someone more like his hideous, selfish mother?
Jul 30, 2016 JacquiWine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to JacquiWine by: Max Cairnduff
Darcy O’Brien was the son of actor George O’Brien (star of several silent films and 1930s Westerns), and stage and screen actress Marguerite Churchill, a frequent co-star of John Wayne. A Way of Life, Like Any Other, is Darcy’s semi-autobiographical novel inspired by his experiences of growing up in Los Angeles in the 1940s and ‘50s. It’s a terrific novel: part compassionate satire, part touching coming-of-age story, and another absolute gem from NYRB Classics. Guy and Max have already written s ...more
Michael Armijo
Dec 08, 2013 Michael Armijo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was okay...not the greatest but it was interesting to read how Darcy grew up in Beverly Hills (in the 1940's-1950's) as a boy surrounded by celebrity and the so-called high-life (not necessarily always good). It wasn't until I re-read the lines that impacted me that I realized that I really did take away some interesting enlightenment (which meant that I really liked it more than I thought).

I completed the book while in-flight on a SouthWest Airlines flight from OAKLAND to LOS ANGELES on M
Jason McKinney
This was perfectly okay. It's not anything special though, regardless of what Seamus Heaney says.
May 05, 2015 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is a triumph of style. Darcy O'Brien writes the coming-of-age story of a young unnamed narrator and his parents, two aging Hollywood stars in the autumn of their lives, desperate to pull everything and everyone down with them in their slow descent into obscurity.

The book starts on a high note, showing the family during the happy years; father had movie deal after movie deal, mother threw extravagant parties (and got a bit too drunk most nights), the young narrator engages with party g
Aug 11, 2014 Darnia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, 2014, netgalley
Well, where should I begin? I thought this book is kind of a biography but in the end of the book, the author confirmed that this is just a fiction (some of the reader believe that this book was his autobiography).

Our hero was a young boy named Salty (this is just a nickname, which..surprisingly, announced in the middle of the book!!) who lived at Hollywood with a selfish, dreamer and obsessed-of-the-right-man's mother and an ex-cowboy actor's father. Off course his parent finally divorced and h
Jun 11, 2014 Rage rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
when I got to the end, I was kind of dissatisfied -- the last vignette didn't feel conclusory to me, and yet, it was the end. on reflection, though, there is a lot I appreciated about this book. I wanted to read it now because I will be leaving LA soon and I was curious about how it would compare to things that I have seen while living out here (being not the child of any stars, not a native or in the entertainment industry, etc). in the beginning, the narrator kind of passively, in a very detac ...more
Aug 23, 2010 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came to this one from the wrong direction, I'm afraid, misreading a blurb and thinking this was a girl's coming of age in Hollywood story, kind of a version of the Didion story, and was excited-- it's a peculiar experience, I'm learning, that leaves you think Darcy is a girl's name.

In truth, this is a very male story, as is its narrator, a young man who shuttles between his two very damaged and dysfunctional parents after their divorces-- mostly, this book is a record of some very funny and at
Tyler Jones
The main thrust of the typical coming-of-age novel involves the loss of childhood innocence as the nasty world shows its true face. In this sense O'Brien's novel is exactly as its title would suggest- the story moves from a protected environment very removed from the realities of "real life" into an instable world of greed and delusion. How A Way of Life differs is in the magnitude and speed of the fall, and in the deft balance of humor and heartbreak.

The novel begins from the rarified heights
Oct 31, 2009 g rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: californiana
I know I probably won't remember it in several months, but I found this novel delightfully engaging. The narrator, a teenager and native Angeleno, recalls his parents' divorce and fall from Hollywood fame. He listens sympathetically to his mother's soliloquies about her imagined sufferings and ridiculous love affairs, and he plays along with his father's mania for Navy-style order and delusions of grandeur. The sense of humor is wry and irresistible as the narrator flits between affection and mo ...more
Pamela Moreno
Darcy O'Brien's book, A Way of Life, Like Any Other, is a tale set at the Golden Age of Hollywood. The story itself is complicated yet easy to understand. The depressed actress mother who never stopped being a hopeless romantic, the father who also acted but never quite satisfied the mother and the son, the one who has to put up with everyone. Oh poor child! I do hope that this isn't Darcy O'Brien's life story it is quite tragic. The dysfunctional hollywood family breaks up very soon after you s ...more
Jun 30, 2013 Tara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
O'Brien can craft a sentence well, and is able to strike a (for lack of a better term) readable tone, but I was left cold. He seems to want to make judgments, but refuses, and in the end this inability to find sense or grace, forgiveness or purposeful anger results in a striking tone of self-absorbed bitterness. Certainly that's a valid reaction to have to the delusional characters around him, but I persist in a (possibly outdated) belief that we don't read novels to just have a timeline of even ...more
Saz Gee
Laid-back, funny and surprisingly engaging. It has lingered in my mind for longer than I expected, which implies the writing and characterisation is really good. I'm not sure how it got Classic status though...
I gave it 3 only because it didn't blow my mind and although I enjoyed it I don't know if I'd want to read it again. Unfortunately my expectation were raised by a Guardian list, or something like that, which rated this book really highly & compared it to Catcher in the Rye. It must be
"My father was as constantly constant as a rock and my mother as constantly inconstant as the sea", 2 May 2016

This review is from: A Way of Life, Like Any Other (Hardcover)
Highly entertaining short (150p) novel, narrated by the son of a Hollywood showbiz couple. From the luxurious early years on the family ranch, things soon go downhill; mother takes to drink and a succession of unsuitable lovers, becoming ever more maudlin and selfish. Father, meanwhile, lives in the past, hankering for his wif
Mar 12, 2008 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio-memoir
This was an interesting book to read - a memoir written more like a novel. It really could have been a fictional account, except it wasn't. Darcy O'Brien wrote a memoir of his childhood and teen years as the son of Hollywood movie stars. During his childhood, both his mom and his dad were famous (for roles mostly during the 1930s), but by the time he hit adolescence, they had split up and their careers went downhill. At one point in the book, his mother calls him Little Lord Fontleroy, and that' ...more
Sep 06, 2007 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're at all fond of the title, the way it says so much about class, its affinity to poke-fun while finely dissecting such a life, and quite frankly you just like the way it rolls off your tongue - A waaay of life... - then this short little read is just your cup of tea. I need say no more; peruse the jacket photo and linger over the title and font a bit to imagine what the story may hold - and you should be satisfied by any account: Youth, old Hollywood, coming of age, fallen parents, the w ...more
i read this book on my honeymoon, and it is pure fun. a coming of age story about a hollywood lad, somewhat prescient in its telling of the childhood of the child of stars. i only hope that the brangelina brood grows up to be as introspective, bright and independent as the author. it takes subject matter that might be disturbing and dark and spins it into light as air cocktail party stories. every chapter of this book could be otherwise written as sinister and freudian, but the author doesn't go ...more
Feb 10, 2015 Sam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a funny, sad book! The story of growing up as the son of Hollywood royalty - Darcy O'Brien was the child of Hollywood silent film actor George O'Brien and actress Marguerite Churchill, a frequent co-star of John Wayne. The opening chapter describes the glories of a privileged childhood but things soon take a dark turn as the parents wreck all kinds of hell on their son's life. The account of his mother's defeat by a Christmas Pudding has to be counted as one of my favorite scenes in literat ...more
Melissa Mcavoy
Sep 06, 2011 Melissa Mcavoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A fictional memoir. I, and others I've spoken to, loved the beginning. The author's parents were silent picture stars and he chronicles, in hilarious dead- pan, their family's dissolution and parents divorce and decline. The quality of the writing is high, but by the end the book palls, just a bit. I'm not sure if I became tired of the characters or depressed on their behalf. Perhaps the tone gets a bit too macably antic. I was thinking of a scene in which the father incontinence causes his bed ...more
Mar 06, 2008 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of my all-time faves. the writing here is so filled with generosity, compassion, and dark humor -- it's a most charming view of life. a coming-of-age novel about a boy who grows up in post-WW II Hollywood, shuffling between unforgettable, screwed-up parents. not a dead sentence here. it's short, but in an amazing feat of compression and eloquence, o'brien captures it all. completely re-readable. keep it by your bedside to inspire and forgive your own life when you feel like it's trying to be ...more
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NYRB Classics: A Way of Life, Like Any Other, by Darcy O'Brien 2 5 Oct 30, 2013 10:17PM  
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Darcy O'Brien was born in Los Angeles, the son of Hollywood silent film actor George O’Brien and actress Marguerite Churchill.

O'Brien attended Princeton University and University of Cambridge, and received a master's degree and doctorate from the University of California, Berkely. From 1965 to 1978 he was a professor of English at Pomona College. In 1978 he moved to Tulsa, and taught at the Unives
More about Darcy O'Brien...

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