“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut

2 Guys/2 Gals – More Memoirs

I’ve been intrigued by Ice-T ever since I heard him interviewed on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” several years ago.  By any reasonable expectation, he should have been either in jail or dead, but instead he’s a successful and established actor.  Born Tracy Morrow in New Jersey, his parents both died of heart attacks when he was young.  He was then sent to live with his inattentive aunt in LA.  He turned to crime, fathered a child before he was out of high school, joined the army, and then returned to LA then to become involved in gangs and big-time crime.   For some reason—common sense?  Good self-image?  — he turned his life around.  He’s written a straightforward memoir:  Ice, a Memoir of Gangster Life and Redemption: from South Central to Hollywood.  He comes across as quite likeable and down-to-earth.

Another memoir about a very different struggle is Just Like Someone without Mental Illness Only More So by Mark Vonnegut, son of author Kurt Vonnegut.  Like Ice-T, Mark Vonnegut is very much a survivor.  His challenge is schizophrenia; he relates his episodes of psychoses and resulting hospitalizations in an understated and funny way.

I loved Let’s Take the Long Way Home: a Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell—it’s a sad and emotional book about Gail Caldwell’s friend Caroline Knapp and their enviably open and honest friendship.  Of the many traits they shared, their love of dogs is central to this relationship—the title refers to prolonging their time spent together while dog-walking.  Reading this book lead me to Caroline Knapp’s own narrative Drinking, a Love Story about her life as an alcoholic (before she met Gail Caldwell)—recovering from alcoholism was another experience that they had in common.

All four of these authors have had difficult lives, but their openness and willingness to confide in readers, their spirit, and their accessibility make them seem like friends by the end of the books.

~ Joyce MacDonald

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