Fiction Ruined My Family

( 7 )

Overview

Augusten Burroughs meets Mary Karr: a deeply funny and wickedly entertaining family memoir

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

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Overview

Augusten Burroughs meets Mary Karr: a deeply funny and wickedly entertaining family memoir

The youngest of four daughters in an old, celebrated St. Louis family of prominent journalists and politicians on one side, debutantes and equestrians on the other, Jeanne Darst grew up hearing stories of past grandeur. And the message she internalized as a young girl 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 Darsts uproot themselves and move 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 activities—living in an apartment with no bathroom, stealing food from her babysitting gigs, and raising rent money by riding the subway topless and performing a 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. “For a long time I was worried about becoming my father,” she writes. “Then I was worried about becoming my mother. Now I was worried about becoming myself.”

Ultimately, Darst sets out to discover whether a person can have the writing without the ruin, whether 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

From Barnes & Noble

Jeanne Darst's father was certain that he was destined for literary greatness. To achieve it, he draped his dreams and the family's finances around his novels, none of which, unfortunately, ever achieved publication. While this was happening, or more precisely, not happening, Mrs. Darst was consoling herself with alcohol and young Jeanne was pondering whether she too was doomed to be a failed writer. Told with the sass and deadpan humor of the performance artist she is, Darst's Fiction Ruined My Family proves that all her worst fears were wrong. Offbeat and entertaining.

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.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594486173
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 337,587
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeanne Darst is a writer/performer who has written for The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, and performed her solo plays in bars, barns, and living rooms across the country. An excerpt from this book on aired on This American Life. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    half-good

    description of author's family quite funny but got boring when she shifted focus to her own alcoholism

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    In one word..Horrible

    Memoirs are my genre of choice so I may be a bit more critical as I read much to compare but this was pretentious name dropping crap. I didn't get thru it, a waste of my time and money. Now Whateverland by Alexis Stewart is turning out to be a pleasant surprise..enjoying every un pretentious word!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 7, 2011

    Wonderful humorous memoir

    I am complete stranger to the writer and have nothing to gain or lose by writing this review, other than sharing something that I enjoyed.

    I saw Ms Darst read from her book at BookCourt in Brooklyn, and got a sense of her "scrappy" personality and deadpan humor. I picked up the book right after that and finished it in two evenings.

    I think this book is one of the best in the genre of humorous memoir, right up there with works by Sara Barron, Wendy Burden, and Haven Kimmel. Jeanne has some great characters to work with, particularly her father. One of the key insights is "Like all tragic heroes he has a fundamental lack of self-awareness." She also makes herself the target of much of the humor. She realizes that she inherited some of the traits of both her mother and her father, and is constantly trying to prove that "I am not an id-i-ot."

    Let me give one example of her humor. "As a kid I was absolutely terrified of cliches. My father forbade them in our home... They were gateway language leading straight to a business major, a golfy marriage, needlepoint pillows that said things about your golf game, and a self-inflicted gunshot to your head that your family called a heart attach in your alma mater announcements."

    Besides the humor, I like the writer's unsentimental exploration of her emotions about the decline of her parents, and her own struggle as a starving artist.

    I highly recommend this book to other readers. You will laugh.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2013

    Mia

    Falls asleep* ((ou need to buy baby stuff

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2014

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