Debut memoirist Righten describes his working-class childhood and erstwhile young adulthood amid a motley crew of relatives and friends in Ireland and England.
Righten’s memoir will remind readers of a drunken evening in a pub spent listening to tales of a sordid and colorful life. He takes turns as a rollicking fighter, pub denizen and gambler before, eventually, becoming a humanitarian. With a sly, ironic voice, Righten avoids sentimentalizing his life by undercutting every harsh observation with humor; ever the “Fenian bastard,” Righten has a gift for rendering the eccentricities of his friends and relatives in a comedic way. Wacky travel anecdotes and scenes of brawls, workplace shenanigans, and football matches gone awry are lively and engrossing. However, this is not a memoir for the straight-laced, politically correct or fainthearted: Massive quantities of alcohol are consumed, many teeth are knocked out, and sarcasm is in generous supply. Righten’s life philosophy, represented in the title, plays a large part in the narrative. He believes that even the most unlikely of rogues has a moral compass and is capable of unexpected acts of kindness. Of course, the author employs a uniquely flexible definition of good, which may include violence against cheating husbands and abusive fathers. But readers will find it difficult to disagree with the thrust of Righten’s arguments in the second half of this memoir, which focuses on the author’s career as a humanitarian worker in Bosnia and Latin America. His run-in with a sociopathic mercenary is particularly chilling, as are his descriptions of delivering medicine to hospitals filled with traumatized, needy children during the Bosnian War. Righten’s own near-death experiences will convince readers that the author is one of the benevolent scoundrels he so admires.
A roguishly charming memoir.