A miasma of misfortune hobbles a successful author’s life and livelihood.
There was a time when Anastas (The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance, 2001, etc.) was riding high on the success of his 1998 novel, An Underachiever’s Diary. But his memoir isn’t about happy days, since things took a nasty turn for the worse. As a broke 41-year-old, he was drowning in debt while sharing his Brooklyn apartment with live-in girlfriend Eliza, who, while overwhelmingly sympathetic, found herself running out of patience. The depth of Anastas’ desperation materializes in chapters like “Coinstar,” in which he discusses converting loose change at the local “Bank of Desperate Times” to buy food for his shared-custody son’s visits. Anastas is admirably frank and honest about the depressing details of his floundering literary career and the antagonistic dissolution of his marriage after mutual indiscretions (he had an international fling with another writer; she left him for another man while pregnant with their son). The author affords readers a glimpse into an unconventional childhood watched over by a loose-cannon father and a depressive, therapy-dependent mother, who came out as lesbian when the author was a teenager. However, the headliner here is his more recent conundrum, which he conveys with an exacting eye for detail and a healthy dose of browbeaten exasperation. Eventually circumstances improved, and the author’s many battles have wrung from him both catharsis and poignancy.
The raw yet eloquent presentation of a life in crisis mode.