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.
"A well-written, if overly polished tale by a writer stalled in mid-career finds thin, occasional sneers in anecdotes about being broke, cheating on his fiancÃ©e, and wondering what his new girlfriend sees in him. Anastas (The Faithful Narrative of a Pastor's Disappearance) was one of those lucky authors who, 10 years ago, enjoyed being able to say the words 'final round of bidding on my novel' for a reputable publishing house and celebrate the book's publication (The Underachiever's Diary), though briefly, before it sank into oblivion. He also had to endure hearing his agent murmur, 'I had much higher hopes for you,' when Anastas couldn't produce, as well as face being unable to provide for his young son, Primo, from his first failed marriage, and to reassure new girlfriend Eliza that he was really trying to help pay the rent for the Brooklyn apartment they were sharing. The author initially appears self-pitying, mystified by his inability to earn money as a well-educated published author, reduced to scrounging for coins in order to entertain his son, and somewhat comfortably accustomed to his role of getting kicked around by creditors, ex-wife, therapists, even the new boyfriend of his ex, called the Nominee (for a Major Literary Award, no less). At times the author can come across as insincere, but he does redeem himself with a closing poignant letter of promise addressed to his son ('you'). (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The failure is real, the voice is raw, the story is haunting." — Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom
“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”
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.
The most affecting father-son story since Cormac McCarthys The Road
, this astonishing memoir is a gut-wrenching account of a life at the crossroads. When he was three, Benjamin Anastas found himself in his mothers fringe-therapy group, a sign around his neck: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. The phrase haunts him at forty, when everything around him lies in tatters.
Broke, his promising literary career gone, Anastas is 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. Anastass fierce love for his young son forces him to confront his own childhood, fraught with mental illness, divorce, and the fumes of hippiedom. Charged with rage, despair, humor, and hope, this unforgettable book gets to the core of what it means to be a father.
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
At the Church Door 1
Going Broke 5
The Real Life of an Author 19
Divorce Counseling 63
A Disturbance of Memory at the Brooklyn Flea 73
Too Good to Be True 83
One Beehive in Nicaragua 105
At the Wheel of the Haunted Sedan 125
Not This Guy 143
Unpaid Bills 153
Old Friends 157
The Tower Where I Work 167