I swear I’ve read more than two books in the eight (8) weeks since the two-five. I’m just an updating deadbeat is all. Without further ado: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy.

Motives for reading:

1.) Truth and Beauty. Like so many others, I was moved to read this depressing memoir about the aftermath of bone cancer because of writer Ann Patchett’s Lucy Grealy friend-ography, which I loved and which Lucy’s family hated. But actually, the scathing Guardian editorial by Lucy’s sister Suellen Grealy was what put me over the edge. Here’s a snapshot:

“My sister Lucy was a uniquely gifted writer. Ann, not so gifted, is lucky to be able to hitch her wagon to my sister’s star. I wish Lucy’s work had been left to stand on its own.

OUCH. But, after reading Autobiography of a Face (AOAF), I will admit to preferring Lucy’s style over Patchett’s. Try as I might, I can’t get more than five pages into any of the latter’s novels.

2.) Heroin. I’m scared shitless of heroin, which is how Lucy Grealy died at the age of 39, eight years after AOAF was published. Knowing that ahead of time made certain tells, like her casual admissions of childhood morphine dependency, scarily foreshadowing.

3.) Iowa Writers’ Workshop. My dream school, minus the whole moneypit factor (and, what I am repeatedly told, the apparent worthlessness of creative writing MFAs). Lucy went there.

4.) The Brooklyn Flea. Three paperbacks for ten bucks! This book was one of them.

Stuff that I should have reconsidered:

1.) I read this in March. You know, the “I-hate-everything-why-won’t-it-just-be-spring-sniff-sniff-stab” month? This is not an uplifting piece of literature, regardless of how exquisitely written it is. Do yourself a favour and read this when you hate life a little but not overwhelmingly, yeah?

2.) I read this after reading Prozac Nation. I’m not an emotional submissive. Literary whips and chains take their toll. Y’know? Next time, pacing.


Memoirs, even more than fiction in my opinion, are pretty taste-specific. Some people should simply not be reading accounts about the lifelong implications of childhood cancer battles, because doing so either takes a lot out of you or you’re a sociopath. Neither is a good thing.

But, besides the tough stuff, this book has a fair bit of wry and subtle humour to take the edge off, like a candy coated asprin. This helps.

Bottom line? I’m glad I read it.