Memoirs are a funny business. So many get published each year by authors who can't write, but rather dictate their lives to a ghostwriter who makes sense of the rat-a-tat and types it up in a logical and (hopefully) entertaining fashion. Sometimes the scribe gets a "With" credit on the cover but more often than not, just a polite "thank you" on the acknowledgments page.
I go through phases of reading tons of them back-to-back, and then boycotting the whole genre for years—as if the books were being printed in sweatshops in Malaysia or something.
Recently, a new memoir by author Hillary Carlip has caused me to end my embargo. Called Queen of the Oddballs, Carlip spins a hilarious narrative, full of life-until-now strangeness (like being the first contestant ever on the Gong Show to get a perfect 10 from critic Rex Reed).
But unlike most memoirs, she also lists factoids at the beginning of each chapter (which are organized by year) to help ease the reader back in time. For instance, in the Spring of 1971 we learn "At a Grateful Dead concert in San Francisco, more than thirty fans go to the hospital after unknowingly drinking apple juice laced with LSD."
And in 1985 we're reminded "Coke changes its original formula and introduces "˜New Coke.'" While in 1991, in what now seems like the irony of our times, "Iraq declares some of its chemical weapons and material to the UN and claims that it does not have a biological weapons program."
And while, yes, that's no laughing matter, Carlip's book is. A proud lesbian, her writing sparkles like a male David Sedaris.