Jim Knipfel, Author . Penguin/Tarcher $9.95 (235p) ISBN 978-1-58542-337-8

Knipfel, a columnist for New York Press , opens this memoir with, "Whenever I hear the word 'spiritual,' I reach for my revolver." Dogged by "bad spirits," he cites a wicked laundry list of his physical and psychological ailments, beginning with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease; epilepsy; and paranoia and depression. The author catalogued much of this torment, both of the body and mind, in his previous books, Slackjaw and Quitting the Nairobi Trio . Here, he uses his dark, sardonic humor to examine his inner self, finding "failure of the spirit is the most dangerous kind of failure there is." Childhood obsessions of a "blinding white light" and the crucifixion evolve, as demons continue to plague the adult Knipfel with seizures, blackouts, suicide attempts and the evil influences of his friend Grinch, a sociopath who tries to get Knipfel to burn down a building with him. Fortunately, two other (more sane) friends, Laura and Morgan, humanize his rage and paranoia so he can get on with the "patterns" of daily existence. What makes this book enjoyable is not Knipfel's false opinion of just being "a simple... man with psychological and neurological problems," but rather the author's triumph in the face of often overwhelming health challenges. Witty, irreverent and full of black humor, this is a memoir of a troubled, talented soul who can laugh at himself while refusing to throw in the towel on life. Agent, Ken Swezey. (May)

Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!