Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Half A Life

The Book: Half A Life

The Author: Darin Strauss

The Dealio: 'Half a life ago, I killed a girl.' This is the opening line of the book Half A Life. The author, who has written other non-fiction previously, now turns his focus to an event that happened when he was a high school senior. While driving to a chip 'n' putt, a young girl on a bike suddenly swerves into traffic right in front of the author. For the bulk of his life, he grapples with trying to understand what happened, and what his fair share of the guilt must be. It is only when he and his wife have a child that he realises something must change, and he is driven to write about the episode which happened half a life ago, but left him forever changed.

The Grading Session: 4.53 pengies out of 5. Delicately overwhelming writing pushes you forward in this tale, tracing, along with the teen Darrin, followed by the coming-of-age and adult Strauss his struggles to put the most life changing experience of his young life into some sort of sense-making order. Job well done. However: some debits? Really cannot stand it when an author populates an entire page with a meager 1-5 lines. Perhaps, the writer is going for emphasis in an artsy-fartsy sort of way. Hasn't he ever heard of exclamation points!? Other times, (so sorry to say this, because I lovelovelove Robert B. Parker's entire body of work, but....if the shoe fits, buy it in every color and tromp around in it), this ploy is clearly meant to up the number of pages to an approved amount (say 188-200), then shuttle that puppy off to ye olde publisher. Come on, folks. It is what it is: if this particular story takes 55 pages to unspool, that's, literally, all she wrote. This is from someone who has, in the past, written a one word chapter. But I now see the error of my ways and am left with the thankless task of pointing this error out in others'.

Lessons Learned: Sometimes it is not simple teen-aged paranoia: everyone really is staring at you. Also this: no matter how many times you rerun the mini-film of something earth-shifting which has happened to you, you can never separate out what actually happened from your emotional responses to the event. Lastly: it is possible to be haunted, feel guilty and yet, still be inspired by tragedy. All at the same time.

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