Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review: Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: I think I saw that this one is coming out in October 2011? Now I can't find exactly where I saw that. Anyway, it's not out yet, but it will be out soon.

It's about: Jeanne Darst comes from a family of four sisters, a spunky, alchoholic mother, and a father with romantic visions of a career as a writer and an unhealthy obsession with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. In this memoir, Darst writes about how she has come to terms with her unique family situation, specifically her eccentric father, and how through some very hard times she came to be a successful writer herself.

I thought: Riverhead Books contacted me suggesting I review this book after they saw I read and loved Running With Scissors. Unfortunately, I didn't love this one quite so much. I think perhaps the biggest problem I had with this book was Darst's very excessive use of bad language. Though it was extremely funny at parts, ultimately it didn't have the emotional resonance that Running With Scissors had for me, even though that book had quite a lot of bad language as well. Because I didn't have that emotional connection with Jeanne's story, the vulgarity in this memoir stood out much more to me and seemed like wayyy too much.

Another thing that bothered me was that it seemed for most of the book Darst was making fun of her family. Near the end it got a little better, but you can definitely see that she and her sisters had a very difficult relationship with her father. One part that was particularly jarring was when she describes a moment that occurred between one of her sisters and her dad. They were sitting together in a restaurant when her dad asked her sister for some money, maybe 20 dollars. Her sister stood up, yelled "I hate you" and left the restaurant. I mean, what??  There were many moments like this in the book that pushed me away emotionally from Darst and her sisters and almost made me dislike them.

One thing I was very impressed with, however, was Darst's writing. She has a very strong, unique voice and an excellent control of language. I remember reading once that a good writer never writes a description or a phrase that he/she has read or heard before. (Ex. - "a shock of blonde hair" "she raced for the door" etc.) Everything Durst wrote was totally in her own voice and didn't feel contrived AT ALL. I loved this about the book and I think I would actually be interested in reading more of her writing purely because of excellent writing. If only she would take some of those f-words out. Oh, and that one situation with her poop.

Verdict: In-Between. I don't think I can't fully commit to putting this one on the shelf.

Reading Recommendations: If you liked Running With Scissors and aren't bothered by a lot of bad language, you might enjoy Fiction Ruined My Family. It's very funny and if you think you might like it, it's worth a shot.

Warnings: Yes, like I said, lots of swear words, lots of drinking, lots of sex, lots of family-bashing.

Favorite excerpts:  "I was under the impression clich├ęs could ruin you, ruin your life, your hopes and dreams, bring down your whole operation if you didn't watch it. 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 the head that your family called a heart attack in your alma mater announcements. Character suicide. Langauge was important, sexy, fun, alive, extremely personal, it was like food, you wouldn't just pop anything into your mouth, why would you let anything pop out that you hadn't considered and prepared for someone to enjoy?"

What I'm reading next: Model Home by Eric Puchner

* I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.