Preview — Half a Life by Darin Strauss. Half a Life by Darin Strauss.
Half a Life is a nakedly honest, ultimately hopeful examination of guilt, responsibility, and living with the past. We follow Strauss as he exp Half a Life is a nakedly honest, ultimately hopeful examination of guilt, responsibility, and living with the past. We follow Strauss as he explores his startling past-collision life - the funeral, the queasy drama of a high-stakes court case? Get A Copy.
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To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Half a Life , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Feb 16, Will Byrnes rated it liked it Shelves: biography , nonfiction , brooklyn. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In May, , at age 18, Strauss was driving on a highway with his friends when a sixteen-year-old girl on a bicycle veered from the right shoulder, crossing multiple lanes of traffic.
Strauss hit and killed her. Half a Life is his story of how he came to terms with this. It is reasonable to expect that any young person would be traumatized by such an event.
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How would one expect that trauma to manifest? In the usual ways, displays of public remorse, acceptance of responsibility, probably deep fe In May, , at age 18, Strauss was driving on a highway with his friends when a sixteen-year-old girl on a bicycle veered from the right shoulder, crossing multiple lanes of traffic. In the usual ways, displays of public remorse, acceptance of responsibility, probably deep feelings of guilt, difficulty sleeping.
But what if the person is truly blameless? What would be appropriate then? The fact is that the author did not feel all that much about the accident. The event was not his fault. He was exonerated by all objective measures. Yet he thought that he was expected to feel huge guilt, huge remorse, not just behave in a socially appropriate manner following the accident Was Strauss wrong in his perception of what the world expected of him after the accident?
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He is clearly a bright guy, and got it that the world would look askance at him should he follow his auto-trauma with, say, a night of gleeful carousing with his buds, or if he displayed indifference to the death of a young woman. It was appropriate for him to behave in certain ways as a matter of social self-preservation, or what we usually refer to as common decency. There was a role he thought he had to play, and he willingly joined the cast.
However, like a method actor, he wanted to have actual, personal feeling to work with, and it was not there.
So it sets up a sort of feedback loop. There is no real feeling of guilt, but the author acts to satisfy what he sees as the public expectation. However, since he realizes, intellectually, that his actions do not have a legitimate emotional core, he then experiences actual guilt for not experiencing the guilt he is projecting out into the world. It is not dishonest to observe social norms. One does not have to experience deep grieving in order to show respect for the victim of an accident. I felt like I wanted to sit this kid down, tell him to stop whining, perform his civic duty, get over it, grow up and move on with his life.
Of course we of the male persuasion have been known, particularly in our youth, to face some challenges without really knowing, let alone articulating what our feelings are. Been there, done that, although under much less traumatic circumstances.
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I thought this was an honest book, but one that could have been so much more. It might have offered a springboard to a wider look at how people cope in similar situations. Maybe even how society thrusts certain roles on us regardless of how we actually feel, forcing us into a place where what we feel is considered illegitimate. This is a world, of course, governed by externalities. One can hardly count on being rewarded for honesty, for example.
Whistle blowers usually wind up fired and harassed. Joe Wilson pops to mind as the poster child for the consequences of honesty in the real world. How many rewards does our society offer for inner beauty? Far fewer than those given for the more observable sort. Evil, is, of course, regularly rewarded. How many Wall-Streeters are in jail? As long as we do not feel a need for complete emotional transparency in the business of living we can continue on with our lives.
Strauss does feint in this direction a time or two, but more in the area of coping with guilt than with managing in the world. So his structure breaks down. It is not about cloaking guilt under a massive defense mechanism. He really was not responsible for the accident and internalized what he thought was expected. So is there any larger view to be taken from this? Maybe it is that we can get so caught up in how we appear that we lose sight of who we are, and become a product of our attempt to manage our own image.
It has a certain fractal beauty to it. Somewhere in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual there is probably a diagnosis of facing-mirror-infinitely-reflecting guilt syndrome. While one may or may not find the person of the author particularly to one's liking, it is easy to admire his writing skill.
The book is rich with imagery and smile-inducing turns of phrase. And it is a very fast read. There is a bounty of white space in these pages. While it may list as pages, it is easily only half that. But it is definitely a whole story. View all 20 comments. Oct 28, Ben Loory rated it it was ok.
View all 10 comments. Dec 20, Peter Derk rated it really liked it Shelves: petestop0f I don't really know how to rate this. Not because it's a bad book. It's a really good book. It feels weird to rate it. It's kind of like this: My brother taught some English classes at some colleges, and he made a rule that in the beginning classes he didn't want anyone to write essays about two things: Marijuana legalization and personal rape stories. The first because he'd just read too many that covered the same ground.
The second sounds a little cold-hearted, but I can get behind his reasoni I don't really know how to rate this. The second sounds a little cold-hearted, but I can get behind his reasoning. He said that it was impossible to grade them. Imagine someone pouring her heart out regarding a terrible personal violation, but looking at it honestly and finding that it was rife with grammatical errors and misspellings.
Grading the story of someone's rape just seemed methodical and bizarre, and it made it very difficult for him to ever assign a bad grade, which in some cases may have been an honest grade.
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