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Autobiography of a Face


Autobiography of a Face Cover

ISBN13: 9780395657805
ISBN10: 0395657806
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This powerful memoir is about the premium we put on beauty and on a woman's face in particular. It took Lucy Grealy twenty years of living with a distorted self-image and more than thirty reconstructive procedures before she could come to terms with her appearance after childhood cancer and surgery that left her jaw disfigured. As a young girl, she absorbed the searing pain of peer rejection and the paralyzing fear of never being loved.

Book News Annotation:

The author, a poet, writes intimately and lucidly of her experiences growing up with a facial disfigurement, for which she underwent more than 30 reconstructive procedures. No scholarly trappings.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

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t.bechtold, July 14, 2008 (view all comments by t.bechtold)
A Disembodied Work

In Autobiography of a Face, Lucy Grealy has written-- not remembered-- a story based on her myriad attempts to attain a widely accepted form of physical beauty. (This is noted and emphasized in the book's Afterword by Ann Patchett, a longtime friend of Grealy's.) Why this fact is important to Grealy and, vicariously, to Patchett is explicitly stated: Grealy wanted to be appreciated for her writing, not for surviving what was certainly a hellish ordeal. What Patchett also makes clear in the Afterword (and in Truth & Beauty: A Friendship) is that Grealy's book was not made a bestseller due to her beautiful sentence struture. Nor was it due to some sweeping truth about life evidenced in what I must refer to as Grealy's novel. Instead, Autobiography of a Face sold well because people wanted to read about Grealy's pain. Real, remembered pain; not fictional pain. Real hospital visits, real operations, real life. The questions asked of Grealy at her readings make this obvious. By writing a fictionalized account of what happened, Grealy gave her fans a taste of what they wanted, a taste that they couldn't conceive of as fiction, because without that element of truth, the book falls apart.

Patchett claims that Autobiography should stand as great literature outside its voyeuristic appeal. Indeed, Lucy Grealy was an accomplished poet in her lifetime, a feat that very few can claim without some degree of nepotism or croneyism (although I'm sure the Iowa Writers' Workshop didn't hurt). Unfortunately, the beauty and elegance of form so easily found in her verse does not translate to her prose. Her sentences, while by no means awkward, are not stunning, not moving. She could be sitting with her peers, casually relating the events of her life-- but, as she insisted at the anecdotal reading Patchett describes in the Afterword, Autobiography is not an autobiography. It is fiction. And, as fiction, it is nothing more than a laundry list of voluntary tortures, all in the name of love (or sex, or acceptance, depending on the stage of the narrator's life). The climax, as it were, is but a comfortable murmur after a grotesque surgical storm.

Grealy's life story is phenomenal and heartbreaking, but only because the tale is her own. No fictional character can command our sympathies as readily as flesh and blood. For Grealy to insist that we judge her novel outside of its truth is for her to strip the book of its power-- to render it incomplete, a face struggling desperately to find a body.
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Product Details

Grealy, Lucy
Houghton Mifflin
Boston :
Body image
Adaptation, Psychological
Disfigured persons -- United States -- Biography.
Disfigured persons.
Ewing's sarcoma
Jaw Neoplasms
Sarcoma, Ewing s
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
223 p.

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Women
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Cancer
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Medical Biographies

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Product details 223 p. pages HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT - English 9780395657805 Reviews:
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