Ciara's Reviews > Fiction Ruined My Family

Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst
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's review
Nov 13, 11

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bookshelves: autobio-memoir, read-in-2011
Read in November, 2011

once again, i wish goodreads gave us the option of half-stars. because i think this is on the cusp between three & four stars. it is extremely flawed, but also very entertaining. though i am of course biased because i enjoy memoirs.

darst's memoir is admittedly pretty thin on material. she is the youngest daughter of a pair of st. louis alcoholics. her mother was a wealthy child equestrian who seemed to think the gravy train would never stop, even if she married a bumbling, alcoholic, peripatetic writer. when he could not keep her in the manner to which she had become accustomed, she turned to whiskey. he was descended from a long line of notable journalists & assumed that he would follow in their footsteps to write the great american novel. while he managed to sell a lot of stories to some very respectable markets, he never managed to publish a novel, & he spent his golden years laboriously obsessing over a biography of f. scott fitzgerald, which darst uses as a rather ham-fisted & funereal metaphor for her parents' relationship.

darst herself grows up to be an alcoholic who can't hold down a job or a relationship, even while she imagines that she will somehow break through the hangover fog long enough to write an amazing play that will catapult her to financial stability & literary success. most of the book is a long series of non-sequitors that would be more at home in a book of humorous essays by david sedaris or sloane crosley (which is not to say that darst is as funny as those writers--though she probably could be, if she didn't feel the need to steep her writing in bathos to give it a literary patina). i felt like i was reading a series of stories that darst busts out at parties, rather than a memoir that was actually going somewhere. & a warning for anyone who doesn't enjoy bathroom humor: you'll probably just want to give this book a pass.

things especially fell apart toward the end of the book, when darst's mother dies. shortly thereafter, darst gets pregnant with a man she's been dating for a few months. they get married & move to los angeles, where darst, who obviously considers herself a new york sophisticate, is lonely & ill at ease. she begins working on this memoir, & her husband clearly does not approve, thinking that she is behaving as obsessively as her father, & is likely to go as far, which is to say, nowhere. the relationship falls apart & darst moves back to new york.

i got the impression that all of this was written more or less as it was happening & didn't benefit from the same level of reflection & revision as the rest of the book. i mean, when i was reading earlier parts of the book, i may have wondered why exactly darst felt the need to include thirty pages about this time she pooped into a bag because someone was in the bathroom, but at least the writing was engaging & well-paced (although darst needs to be arrested immediately for abuse & misuse of punctuation--it's as if she substituted half of her periods for commas, put this revised manuscript into a bag, & shook it up, so that her over-abundance of commas was scattered haphazardly throughout the text with no rhyme or reason). this last section was a tedious slog. it reminded me of watching the last film in the "lord of the rings" trilogy. just when you think it's over, there's another scene.
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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer i totally agree on the half-stars option.

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