If you grew up in the ’80s, a lot of this book will resonate. ‘Story of My Life’ is about a disaffected, privileged young woman who lives in NYC, and has everything she needs in a material sense, but a distant relationship from her parents who substitute money for their love and attention. Throughout the book you see a young woman, left to her own devices to figure it all out, amidst parties, drugs and similarly alienated friends and family. She yearns for more but can’t say what the “more” is, because she’s never really had it. But what she does have are ample opportunities for sexual and other adventures that she describes with such distance that it breaks your heart.
It’s written in the first person, the protagonist is female, and the author – the amazing Jay McInerney – is of course male. But he wrote this young woman so well, it’s amazing. You know his work; he wrote the acclaimed ‘Brightness Falls’ and ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ which became a movie. For my money, he’s the writer whose voice, more so than any other, captures the soul of New York City and the many people who try to invent and reinvent themselves there. This book, ‘Story of My Life’ was read aloud with my college roommate over a single night. We LOVED it because NYC loomed large in our lives at the time. Both the book, and the memory of that night with my roommate (and still one of my dearest friends) are incredibly important to me. I hope you read and enjoy it.
I’ve been super-busy these last several days with my other work – you know, the non-writing job that distracts me from my true love. But I did promise to post books that I think are strong examples of unique ‘voices’ in writing. And this one, is perhaps my favorite. ‘Possessing the Secret of Joy’ by Alice Walker. If you like plain prose, this ain’t gonna be your thing. Still, I was so moved by this, and so obsessed with this book, it almost made me stop writing. I read it and was like, “Okay, I don’t know what to call the crap I’ve been producing, but it’s not writing. This (Alice Walker’s Possessing the Secret of Joy) is writing.” Now I’m older and wiser so totally get that there’s room for different voices, different points of view, different ways of looking at the world. But I can’t lie, this book almost convinced me I should pack it in and concentrate on just being a lawyer.
I won’t review this book here, except to say that I gave it five stars. One of the reasons I loved it was not just the unique nature of the voice, and of the situation it portrays, but because it is about several of my favorite topics: race, identity, and relationships. And as a bonus, it addresses some of the wrongheaded decisions parents make in the name of improving the lives of their children.
The tone and pacing of the story is definitely not for everyone, and if you need “action”, you will likely not appreciate ‘Caucasia’ much because almost all of the action is internal. I read this book years ago, and wondered then, why no one told me about it sooner. So many great writers, so little time . . .