Book Eleven: A Way of Life, Like Any Other

A Way of Life Like Any Other, Darcy O'Brien

Books like this are exactly the reason why I seek out NYRB editions. It's so clear that they work hard to find true lost classics and reissue them so us lazy folks don't have to look for them ourselves. I honestly never would have known about this (mostly autobiographical) novel had I not noticed its gorgeous, characteristically NYRB cover on the shelves of Powell's and given it a shot because (almost) all NYRB books rule.

The nameless narrator (we can assume this is probably a young Darcy O'Brien, though his father begins to call him Salty for no apparent reason later in the novel, which I love) is the son of two Hollywood stars who lives a charmed life early on. But that life becomes less sweet as his parents age, cease to be cinema darlings, divorce, and use him as a vehicle for their various neuroses. His mother is a depressed alcoholic who can't seem to find love, and his father moves in with his mother-in-law and becomes an eccentric recluse. The book follows him as he moves between his parents and friends, and while it is all so insane it must be true, it is equally parts hilarity and tragedy.

I hate to put this in the "coming-of-age" or "dysfunctional family" classes of books, because that seems too diminutive. While this book is simply the story of a boy growing up with crazy parents, it's also just a great, well-told story.

In fact, I can't wait to re-read it.


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