A roaming, rambunctious account about rejecting society—and then embracing it.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

A memoir discusses morality and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1980s punk scene.

One might not associate Salt Lake City with the counterculture, but in the mid-’80s, the city boasted a punk scene awash in drugs, sex, and rock ’n’ roll. It was in this milieu that Bigelow (The Latter-day Saint Family Encyclopedia, 2019, etc.), fresh from high school, began to move beyond the good-and-evil morality of his upbringing by “middle-range Mormons.” Borrowing from the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons (Bigelow’s preferred means of escape during his early adolescence), the author adopted the philosophy of chaotic neutrality: “In D&D, neutral basically meant selfish—I did what I needed for my own comfort, but I didn’t hurt others for evil purposes, and I didn’t conform to some one-size-fits-all system of good.” What was so bad, after all, about casual sex, recreational drug use, and some minor theft here and there? Then, under the influence of LSD and Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic novel The Stand, Bigelow began to probe the unseen world—and he didn’t exactly like what he found. One night, after an INXS concert, drunk and on speed, the author suffered a strange encounter: a violent, angry attack that he called “a disturbance in the Force.” The experience forced Bigelow to confront a larger question: Did evil really exist? And was he better off as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than as an unaligned hedonist? The author’s prose is conversational but steeped in its own cleverly outlined philosophy, as here where Bigelow describes the guilt he felt from stealing from his roommate: “After he left for work, we packed our stuff into cardboard boxes, including Scott’s combat boots and several records. If possible, we would’ve taken his TV, stereo, and other stuff too. As we drove north, I felt a little guilty. Had we crossed the line from chaotic neutral into chaotic evil?” While the author is an able storyteller with plenty of colorful anecdotes, his interest in morality provides a unique ballast in what would otherwise be a typical but entertaining tale of adolescent mischief. His evocative depiction of the time and its subcultures helps to make this a memorable and ultimately quite surprising autobiography.

A roaming, rambunctious account about rejecting society—and then embracing it.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-9993472-3-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Zarahemla Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Close Quickview