Memoirs from Jessie Close, Gail Godwin, Jay Williams, & More | Nonfiction Previews, Jan. 2015, Pt. 1

Close, Jessie with Peter Earley. Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness. Grand Central. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781455548828. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455548811. lib. ebk. ISBN 9781455579495. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. MEMOIR
Sister of the celebrated actress Glenn Close, who offers running commentary and an epilog, closejessieClose suffers from severe bipolar disorder—an illness running in the family but so well hidden that Close herself wasn’t diagnosed until her own son entered McLean, a psychiatric hospital in Massachusetts. No doubt her troubles were aggravated by a messy childhood; after their parents joined a cult called Moral Rearmament, the sisters found themselves relocated first to a cult school in Switzerland and then to the war-torn Belgian Congo, where their father served as a surgeon. With a 150,000-copy first printing; supportive sister Glenn is helping to promote.

Godwin, Gail. Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir. Bloomsbury USA. Jan. 2015. 224p. ISBN 9781620408247. $25. MEMOIR
A three-time National Book Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author, Godwin offers a valuable memoir for anyone interested in books. She doesn’t simply chronicle her own writing life, from meeting with Knopf scouts as a University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, undergraduate, to studying with Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Coover at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, to her five-decades-long relationship with literary agent John Hawkins. By allowing the personal to expand outward, she also gives us an overview of publishing in the last tumultuous 50 years.

Kurzweil, Allen. Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully. Harper. Jan. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9780062269485. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062269508. MEMOIR
Named a Best Young American Novelist by Granta and author of the internationally best-selling A Case of Curiosities, Kurzweil turns in a work that only sounds like fiction. He details how, as a ten-year-old at a stylish English boarding school in the Swiss Alps, he was tied up and viciously whipped by an older boy named Cesar and how he launched a quest to find and confront his nemesis. This meditation on pain and memory, obsession and recovery was aided by Kurzweil’s access to federal files on Cesar, who ended up in prison for his part in an improbable scheme perpetrated by a duke, a Congolese king, a Toledo, OH–born baron, and a runaway prince descended from Vlad the Impaler. As I said, it only sounds like fiction; with a 40,000-copy first printing.

Mewshaw, Michael. Sympathy for the Devil: Four Decades of Friendship with Gore Vidal. Farrar. Jan 2015. ISBN 9780374280482. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780374711191. MEMOIR
As the redoubtable Gore Vidal once said of himself, “There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water.” So prolific author/journalist Mewshaw has his job cut out in recounting their friendship. By ranging from Vidal’s raucous expat life to his encouragement of younger writers who had not yet made their mark, he manages to offer a generous portrait.

Oswalt, Patton. Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film. Scribner. Jan. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9781451673210. $25. MEMOIR/FILM
Noted stand-up comedian and actor Oswalt, known especially for his roles in the sitcom The silverscreenfiendKing of Queens and for voicing Remy in the film Ratatouille, has already given us a New York Times best-selling memoir with Zombie Spaceship Wasteland. Now he drills down to a particularly telling time in his life, the years 1995–99, when he had just moved to Hollywood and became obsessed with films, often catching three a week at the New Beverly Cinema. Look for a five-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Richmond Mouillot, Miranda. A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France. Crown. Jan. 2015. 288p. IBN 9780804140645. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780804140652. Downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR
An American-born editor and translator now living in France, Richmond Mouillot tells an astonishing story about her grandparents, who survived World War II by fleeing German-occupied France for Swiss refugee camps. Anna and Armand finally settled in the south of France (she was a physician, and he had served as an interpreter at Nuremberg). But after five years, for reasons unknown, Anna walked out with the children, and the two never spoke again. The mystery here aches to be unfolded.

Rosenblatt, Roger. The Book of Love: Improvisations on a Crazy Little Thing. Ecco.  Jan. 2015. 192p. ISBN 9780062349422. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780062349446. MEMOIR
As a journalist, Rosenblatt picked up George Polk, Peabody, and Emmy Awards; as an author, he’s a New York Times best seller with 16 books to his name, most recently the touchingly intimate Making Toast and Kayak Morning. In that mode, here he weaves together lines from various songs to explore love in all its manifestations—of friends and family, of nation, nature, and art, and particularly of his wife of 50 years. With a 20,000-copy first printing.

Voigt, Deborah. Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva. Harper. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780062118271. $27.99. MUSIC/MEMOIR
Voigt is a top-flight opera soprano, but after losing the role of Ariadne at the Royal Opera House in 2004 because she couldn’t fit into her character’s little black dress, she underwent gastric bypass surgery and subsequently became addicted to alcohol, eventually attempting suicide. Here’s how she turned around her life. With a 50,000-copy first printing; pushed back from June 2014.

Williams, Jay. Life Is Not an Accident: A Memoir of Reinvention. Harper. Jan 2015. 304p. ISBN 9780062327987. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062328007. MEMOIR
Ten years ago, Williams was riding high as the Chicago Bulls’ top draft pick (and second pick of the entire draft) when a motorcycle crash ended his career. Here he shows what it has taken to have come as far as he has, overcoming multiple operations and taunts that he threw it all away to become an ESPN commentator, motivational speaker, and president of his own company. And there’s another dark angle here: the corruption and heavy-duty gambling, drugs, and sex that are part of pro basketball. With a 35,000-copy first printing.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.