Synopses & Reviews
When he was three, in the early 1970s, Benjamin Anastas found himself in his mothers fringe-therapy group in Massachusetts, a sign around his neck: Too Good to Be True. The phrase haunted him through his life, even as he found the literary acclaim he sought after his 1999 novel, An Underachievers Diary,
had made the smart set take notice. Too Good to Be True
is his deeply moving memoir of fathers and sons, crushing debt and infidelity—and the first, cautious steps taken toward piecing a life back together.
“It took a long time for me to admit I had failed,” Anastas begins. Broke, his promising literary career evaporated, hes hounded by debt collectors as he tries to repair a life ripped apart by the spectacular implosion of his marriage, which ended when his pregnant wife left him for another man. Had it all been too good to be true? Anastass fierce love for his young son forces him to confront his own childhood, fraught with mental illness and divorce. His fathers disdain for money might have been in line with the 70s zeitgeist—but what does it mean when youre dumping change into a Coinstar machine, trying to scrounge enough to buy your son a meal? Charged with rage and despair, humor and hope, this unforgettable book is about losing ones way and finding it again, and the redemptive power of art.
"In this elegant, unsparing memoir, poet Lucy Grealy quietly discusses the psychological repercussions of her bout with bone cancer. Stricken at the age of nine, Grealy endured years of chemotherapy and the removal of almost half her jaw. The undeniable pressure her condition placed on her family made her feel obscurely responsible for her own illness. Yet upon recovering, she found that coming of age with her face disfigured and further misshapen by the uneven results of reconstructive surgery proved to be perhaps more painful. The taunts of her schoolmates and the haplessness of adults who avoided her gaze prompted Grealy's increasing sense of isolation. Yet ultimately what is most memorable is not the author's abjection but her remarkable resilience, expressed in unsentimental, tautly controlled prose." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"Grealy has turned her misfortune into a book that is engaging and engrossing, a story of grace as well as cruelty." Washington Post Book World
"This is a young woman's first book, the story of her own life, and both book and life are unforgettable." A.G. Mojtabai, The New York Times Book Review
"[H]arrowing, lyrical....[Grealy's] discovery that true beauty lies within makes this a wise and healing book." Publishers Weekly
"[A] book you want to hand to people saying only, 'Read it.'...It's no surprise Grealy is a tremendously powerful writer: she saved her own life by telling herself stories to live by. Now she'll change our lives by sharing them." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[G]racefully written....An unsentimental, honest, unflinching look at a single visage reflected (or distorted) in an unforgiving cultural mirror. A strong debut." Kirkus Reviews
"This lucid and elegant memoir traces one woman's journey toward a self defined internally rather than by its reflection in society's mirrors." Anndee Hochman, Philadelphia Inquirer
"A beautifully composed work of literature... Autobiography of a Face is also a moving meditation on ugliness and beauty, of particular significance in a culture obsessed with the outward self." Joyce Carol Oates, New York Times Book Review
“A miasma of misfortune… the authors many battles have wrung from him both catharsis and poignancy… [a] raw yet eloquent presentation of a life in crisis mode.” —Kirkus
“The failure is real, the voice is raw, the story is haunting.” —Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
“Its all very funny and a joy to read, but what lifts this memoir from good to outstanding is that the humor and the darkness are merely a patina. Under the irony there is no irony. Under the panic lies a remorseful heart, a steady determination to figure this out and become a better person.” —New York Times Book Review
“Too Good to Be True is smart and honest and searching…so plaintive and raw that most writers (and many readers) will finish it with heart palpitations." —Dwight Garner, New York Times
“Scenes of a 70s childhood, complete with pot-smoking parents and ‘a lot of adult nudity yield unexpected sweetness and humor in a book thats often searingly painful.” — Boston Globe
“Self-pity has never been so bracing—or hilarious.” —Town & Country
“Anastas has written one of the most memorable memoirs we've read all year.” —Sarah Weinman, Publishers Lunch
“A spectacular account of mind-blowing failure. It is short and it is beautiful and you must buy it.” —Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story
“‘Enjoyed is the wrong word for this book. You don't enjoy eating a bag of glass shards mixed in with bloody pulpy bits of a human heart. Enjoyment, in this case, is irrelevant —I devoured this book not in spite of the pain, but because of it. This is a messy, vital, non-story of a story. I finished it and felt covered in the debris of a life.” —Charles Yu, author of How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
“I love this book so much. Which is weird, considering that it consists of watching Anastas take blow after blow, before being battered and receiving more blows. But you wont pity the author, who leans into even the most difficult situations with wonder and boundless empathy; instead youll just wish he could narrate your own disasters to you, so you could see the art in the salvage.” —Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
“A lot of books get called things like ‘brutally honest, but few books are really as brutal as Too Good to Be True. Benjamin Anastas has taken disheartening failure and turned it into searing, soaring success.” —Daniel Handler, author of Why We Broke Up
“In this taut memoir, Anastas writes about his admittedly colossal failures and the myriad indignities of poverty, such as what it feels like to be pursued at all hours by debt collectors or having to pay tribute to a Coinstar machine just to buy food for your son. The train wreck (and it is a grisly one) isnt the only compelling thing here, however, since Anastas can craft a world-class sentence.” — The Daily Beast, “Hot Reads”
Listed in O, The Oprah Magazine The Reading Rooms “10 Titles to Pick Up Now” — November 2012, O, The Oprah Magazine
Featured in Vogue.coms “Falls Best Memoirs”
Featured in TIME Magazines “Fall Reading”
"I spent five years of my life being treated for cancer, but since then I've spent fifteen years being treated for nothing other than looking different from everyone else. It was the pain from that, from feeling ugly, that I always viewed as the great tragedy of my life. The fact that I had cancer seemed minor in comparison."
At age nine, Lucy Grealy was diagnosed with a potentially terminal cancer. When she returned to school with a third of her jaw removed, she faced the cruel taunts of classmates. In this strikingly candid memoir, Grealy tells her story of great suffering and remarkable strength without sentimentality and with considerable wit. Vividly portraying the pain of peer rejection and the guilty pleasures of wanting to be special, Grealy captures with unique insight what it is like as a child and young adult to be torn between two warring impulses: to feel that more than anything else we want to be loved for who we are, while wishing desperately and secretly to be perfect.
Acclaimed writer Benjamin Anastass searing, utterly moving memoir of fathers and sons, crushing debt and infidelity, and the first, cautious steps taken towards piecing a life back together.
About the Author
Benjamin Anastas is the author of two novels, An Underachievers Diary (1999) (hailed by Very Short List as "the funniest, most underappreciated book of the 1990s" on the occasion of its 2009 reprint) and The Faithful Narrative of a Pastors Disappearance (2001), a New York Times notable book, which Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) called "hands down, the best novel of the year." Hes published articles in the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, Granta, and elsewhere, and received the 2005 Smart Family Fiction Prize from The Yale Review. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and a recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Lannan Foundation. He teaches creative writing at Columbia University and the Bennington Writing Seminars.
Table of Contents
1 Luck 14
2 Petting Zoo 29
3 The Tao of Laugh-In 53
4 Fear Itself 69
5 Life on Earth 88
6 Door Number Two 103
7 Masks 118
8 Truth and Beauty 140
9 World of Unknowing 160
10 The Habits of Self-Conciousness 176
11 Cool 191
12 Mirrors 205