A hugely successful writer for TV, movies, and comics makes his debut as a memoirist with a stunning chronicle of survival.
Straczynski grew up in a destructive family, subjected to “the worst kinds of physical, psychological, and emotional torture” by an alcoholic, violently abusive father, a lifelong admirer of Nazis; a depressed mother, repeatedly institutionalized, who once dropped her young son from a roof; and a grandmother who tried to sexually abuse him. The family was rootless, moving 21 times in 19 years, often fleeing in the middle of the night and “roaring cross-country in an alcohol-fueled haze of drunken violence” to take up residence somewhere else. In one unheated apartment, ill with pneumonia, the author slept in front of an open oven door all night for warmth. He suffered corporal punishment at a Catholic school run by angry nuns and was victimized by bullies elsewhere. Comics, and especially Superman, provided Straczynski with escape and hope. Morally upright, patient, gentle, and powerful, the valiant hero became his model. A bright spot in his dismal childhood occurred in his senior year of high school, when two teachers saw his potential and invested “time, effort, and belief” in him, praising his writing and encouraging him. The author recounts his rocky start as a writer, sending short stories to magazines and collecting rejection slips; getting a gig as a humor columnist for a college newspaper; taking creative writing classes; and submitting reviews, feature articles, screenplays for sitcom pilots, and scripts. He wrote tirelessly and obsessively, not eating or sleeping, until finally some of his efforts bore fruit. Successes, which seemed like miracles, often were followed with spectacular failures. Although he encourages young writers to work hard and follow their passion, the viciously competitive and capricious entertainment industry, as he portrays it, is not for the faint-hearted. Besides recalling professional challenges, Straczynski admits personal struggles resulting from emotional wounds: “social awkwardness” and “compulsive self-reliance” that made him unable to form lasting relationships.
Candid, often sordid, and definitely a page-turner.