Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Jeanne Darst

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JEANNE DARST is a writer/performer who has written for The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, and has performed her solo plays in bars, barns, and living rooms across the United States. An excerpt from this book aired on This American Life. She lives in Los Angeles.
 
Published September 29, 2011 by Riverhead Books. 321 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction, Parenting & Relationships, Self Help. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Fiction Ruined My Family

Kirkus Reviews

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As a child, Darst naively placed her faith in her father's writing, assuring herself that "things aren't going that great now, but it's all about to change, drastically, because Dad's gonna sell this novel…” He never did, and as the family's financial hardships worsened, so did her mother's alcoh...

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The New York Times

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Jeanne Darst follows the crazy-family template for memoirs, wisecracking all the way.

Sep 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

Publishers Weekly

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In this memoir, freelance writer Darst has a brilliant eye for the absurd, sad, and often hilarious circumstances of her family life.

Aug 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

New York Journal of Books

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“At its core this is the story of an adult looking back at her parents’ choices and trying to make sense of ‘how people with their kind of talent, charm, intelligence and privileged backgrounds could wind up like them.’ It’s about getting beyond bewilderment or resentment to recover and discover ...

Sep 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

Entertainment Weekly

B+ Originally posted Sep 21, 2011 Published in issue #1174 Sep 30, 2011 Order article reprints

Sep 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

City Book Review

Jeanne Darst has gifted us with a compelling and hilarious story of her life growing up with three sisters, a father who lives on the hope that he will write the next Great American Novel but instead becomes obsessed with Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald and stops writing altogether, and a mother who...

Apr 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

Macleans

This memoir about growing up in a family of eccentrics opens with the author’s father, the magazine writer Stephen Darst, cashing in his job and the family home and moving his wife and four young daughters from St. Louis to upstate New York with the intent of writing the great American novel he i...

Oct 25 2011 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

The New Yorker

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Nov 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

Kepler's

A truly gutsy, honest and brash biography – my favorite kind of book.

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Front Row Lit

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.

Feb 24 2012 | Read Full Review of Fiction Ruined My Family

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