Fiction Ruined My Family

Fiction Ruined My Family

4.0 7
by Jeanne Darst
     
 

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The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutante balls and equestrian trophies on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. And as a young girl, the message she internalized was clear: while things might be a bit tight for us right now, it's only

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Overview

The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutante balls and equestrian trophies on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. And as a young girl, the message she internalized was clear: while things might be a bit tight for us right now, it's only temporary. Soon her father would sell the Great American Novel and reclaim the family's former glory.

The family uproots and moves from St. Louis to New York. Jeanne's father writes one novel, and then another, which don't find publishers. This, combined with her mother's burgeoning alcoholism — nightly booze- fueled weepathons reminiscing about her fancy childhood — lead to financial disaster and divorce. And as Jeanne becomes an adult, she is horrified to discover that she is not only a drinker like her mother, but a writer like her father.

At first, and for years, she embraces both - living in an apartment with no bathroom, stealing food from her babysitting gigs, and raising rent money by riding the subway topless, or performing her one woman show in her living room. Until gradually, she realizes that this life has not been thrust on her in some handing-down-of-the-writing-mantle-way. She has chosen it; and until she can stop putting drinking and writing ahead of everything else, it's a questionable choice. She writes, "For a long time I was worried about becoming my father. Then I was worried about becoming my mother. Now I was worried about becoming myself."

Ultimately, Jeanne sets out to discover if a person can have the writing without the ruin, if it's possible to be both sober and creative, ambitious and happy, a professional author and a parent.

Filled with brilliantly flawed, idiosyncratic characters and punctuated by Darst's irreverent eye for absurdity, Fiction Ruined My Family is a lovingly told, wickedly funny portrait of an unconventional life.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
…[a] winningly snarky memoir…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In this memoir, freelance writer Darst has a brilliant eye for the absurd, sad, and often hilarious circumstances of her family life. Darst grew up as the youngest of four daughters. Her father, a lover of books and literature, came from a prestigious newspaper family. Her mother, a little rich girl, was a celebrated child equestrian. Yet Darst’s childhood reality—never enough money, “a stay-in-bed mom,” and a stay-at-home writer dad—didn’t jibe with the golden family saga. The jarring discrepancy set the family up for disaster. The family left St. Louis for New York in 1976, where her father began writing the Great American Novel, which never sold. He stopped writing and merely talked about it, her mother’s drinking increased, and Darst followed her example (“Her drinking was also completely out of control, which was infuriating, as I was trying to enjoy some out-of-control drinking myself”). Darst’s parents divorced, and their lives took a further turn downward: her father is mistaken for a homeless panhandler and her mother becomes “less and less of a mother you could take out in public.” With her own life a mess, Darst realizes she embodies the worst qualities of both her parents. With cutting language, she chronicles the perils and joys of the writing life and her journey toward sobriety and truth. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A darkly comic account. . . Highly entertaining."-The New Yorker

"Fiction Ruined My Family reads like a script for performance art, a rapid stand-up routine, careless and wisecracky, signaling moments for the audience to respond to a punch line by clapping. The tinkle of glasses subsides; the performer makes a grimace, takes a bow, goes on. Yet genuine pain is explored - for the dangerous ambitions of fame and achievement and the really dangerous distractions of carelessness with loved ones."-The San Francisco Chronicle

"The wisecracking, ultrahip but ultimately tragic voice in "Fiction Ruined My Family" - part stand-up-comedy, part Lie Down in Darkness is fetching and fast and fun, and it's only after you fully understand the trauma at the heart of her family, the neglect that bordered on child abuse, that the sadness kicks in."-The Chicago Tribune

"-There's nothing rare these days about a memoir of unconventional parents and a difficult childhood, but Darst brings freshness and often startling humor to her own story - which helps balance its more serious second half, in which alcoholism (parental and not) is decreasingly hidden behind charm."-The Boston Globe

"[A] winningly snarky memoir."-The New York Times

"The girl's got flair."-Entertainment Weekly

"Jeanne Darst's memoir about growing up in a hard-drinking family with big literary dreams is hilarious, heartbreaking, and inspiring."-Marie Claire

"In her memoir Fiction Ruined My Family, Jeanne Darst plunges into the story of her delusional family with wicked wit and fearlessness."-Redbook

"High fives to Jeanne Darst for Fiction Ruined My Family, her tale of surviving an alkie blue-blood mom, a hard-drinking failed-writer dad, and her own inebriated performer/playwright/crummy-job dysfunction to write this seriously comic tell-all about her entanglements, with family, friend, and-of course-her bodacious self."-Elle

"Darst has a brilliant eye for the absurd, sad, and often hilarious circumstances of her family life. . . . With cutting language, she chronicles the perils and joys of the writing life and her journey toward sobriety and truth."-Publishers Weekly

"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

"Jeanne Darst's memoir unfolds like a Eugene O'Neill play, with all the boozing and the weeping and the exclamatory self-pity. Only it's also very funny, and it has a happy ending (more or less). Snap this book up."-Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money

"As Tolstoy might have said if he'd survived the 1970s, happy families are all alike but every narcissistic parent is narcissistic in his or her own way. Jeanne Darst tells a story not only of family neuroses, artistic delusions and thwarted dreams but also of the nuances of social class, the tension between domesticity and bohemenianism, and the tragicomedy that comes from faking it but never quite making it. All my favorite themes! -I also laughed out loud more times than I can count."-Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House

"Jeanne Darst is funnier than a blotto WASP in a Lily Pulitzer wheelchair."-Wendy Burden, author of Dead End Gene Pool

"In the tradition of the Mitford sisters' chronicles (but minus Hitler), Fiction Ruined My Family is both a very funny tragedy and a very sad comedy."-Patricia Marx, author of Him Her Him Again and the End of Him

"Dazzlingly funny, gut wrenching and infested with writing that will absolutely floor you. Fiction Ruined My Family has ruined me-how will I ever be able to use those adjectives again and mean them as much as I do now?"-Sloane Crosley, author of How Did You Get This Number

"Jeanne Darst manages to evoke humor and despair in a single sentence. I found myself rooting so hard for her. Fiction Ruined My Family is a great testament to surviving and overcoming wacky parents. A wonderful book." – Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594486173
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/06/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
487,904
Product dimensions:
5.47(w) x 8.21(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Julie Klam
“Jeanne Darst manages to evoke humor and despair in a single sentence. I found myself rooting so hard for her. Fiction Ruined My Family is a great testament to surviving and overcoming wacky parents. A wonderful book.” --(Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof)
Wendy Burden
“Jeanne Darst is funnier than a blotto WASP in a Lily Pulitzer wheelchair.”--(Wendy Burden, author of Dead End Gene Pool )
Patricia Marx
“In the tradition of the Mitford sisters’ chronicles (but minus Hitler), Fiction Ruined My Family is both a very funny tragedy and a very sad comedy.”--(Patricia Marx, author of Him Her Him Again and the End of Him )
Meghan Daum
"As Tolstoy might have said if he'd survived the 1970s, happy families are all alike but every narcissistic parent is narcissistic in his or her own way. Jeanne Darst tells a story not only of family neuroses, artistic delusions and thwarted dreams but also of the nuances of social class, the tension between domesticity and bohemenianism, and the tragicomedy that comes from faking it but never quite making it. All my favorite themes! I also laughed out loud more times than I can count."--(Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House)
Sloane Crosley
“Dazzlingly funny, gut wrenching and infested with writing that will absolutely floor you. Fiction Ruined My Family has ruined me—how will I ever be able to use those adjectives again and mean them as much as I do now?”--(Sloane Crosley, author of How Did You Get This Number)
From the Publisher
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
 
“Jeanne Darst’s memoir unfolds like a Eugene O’Neill play, with all the boozing and the weeping and the exclamatory self-pity. Only it’s also very funny, and it has a happy ending (more or less). Snap this book up.”—Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money
 
“As Tolstoy might have said if he'd survived the 1970s, happy families are all alike but every narcissistic parent is narcissistic in his or her own way. Jeanne Darst tells a story not only of family neuroses, artistic delusions and thwarted dreams but also of the nuances of social class, the tension between domesticity and bohemenianism, and the tragicomedy that comes from faking it but never quite making it. All my favorite themes!  I also laughed out loud more times than I can count.”—Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House
 
“Jeanne Darst is funnier than a blotto WASP in a Lily Pulitzer wheelchair.”—Wendy Burden, author of Dead End Gene Pool 
 
“In the tradition of the Mitford sisters' chronicles (but minus Hitler), Fiction Ruined My Family  is both a very funny tragedy and a very sad comedy.”—Patricia Marx, author of Him Her Him Again and the End of Him
 
“Dazzlingly funny, gut wrenching and infested with writing that will absolutely floor you. Fiction Ruined My Family has ruined me—how will I ever be able to use those adjectives again and mean them as much as I do now?”—Sloane Crosley, author of How Did You Get This Number
 
“Jeanne Darst manages to evoke humor and despair in a single sentence. I found myself rooting so hard for her. Fiction Ruined My Family is a great testament to surviving and overcoming wacky parents. A wonderful book.” – Julie Klam, author of You Had Me at Woof
 
 
 
 

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