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"Imagine the worst thing in the world."
This is the mantra that runs through the brilliant debut from Fletcher Wortmann, TRIGGERED: A Memoir of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. You might have heard Fletcher’s deeply moving interview on NPR’s Talk of the Nation recently (link). He’s a talented new voice, a recent Swarthmore grad writing about the devil in the details. Forget the whimsical portrayal of Detective Monk. We’re talking "Pure O," a highly debilitating form of the illness, one marked by intrusive thoughts of the darkest and even apocalyptic kind.
But no mere "misery memoir," this. As brutally intimate and honest as TRIGGERED is—an "acid bath of self-revelation," one blurber calls it—what charmed me about this memoir was its quirky balance of the heartbreaking and the hysterical, the profound and the light-hearted. (One of my favorite lines: "If a girl accepts an invitation to help count the tiles on your bedroom ceiling, then she will probably be disappointed when she realizes you were speaking literally.") The experience of reading TRIGGERED is akin to "reading" a Wes Anderson film, if that makes sense. Wortmann’s a unique talent; it’s a rare author indeed who can weave eclectic allusions to David Bowie, Kurt Vonnegut, psychology, Christian comic books, Pokémon, Edgar Allen Poe, the family cat, and St. John of the Cross. As engrossing as this memoir is on the subject of mental illness, fundamentally it’s a universal coming of age story that takes us on a journey through American culture both high and low. (And it’s entirely appropriate for teen readers, as well. My 16-year-old nephew polished it off in a couple days…)
People magazine gave TRIGGERED 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, bestselling memoirist Janine Latus declared "Bravo!" and OCD authority Jonathan Grayson praised its "hip, dark humor" and likened TRIGGERED to "Jack Kerouac’s on the Road for OCD and the twenty-first century."
...Staying on the subject of moving memoirs, I also want to draw your attention to SPARKY AND ME: My Friendship with Sparky Anderson and the Lessons He Shared About Baseball and Life by Dan Ewald.
Baseball fans such as myself know Sparky Anderson, the late Hall of Fame inductee who was the first manager to win a World Series in both leagues—with Cincinnati’s "Big Red Machine" in the '70s and then with the Detroit Tigers in the '80s. He was not just a successful baseball manager as he coached his players in the "unwritten rules of life," as well. As Sparky said, "Always demand that players act like major leaguers—on and off the field."
Few people can claim to have known Sparky as well as Ewald, a former sportswriter who served 18 years as public relations director for the Tigers and managed Anderson’s career for 32 years. The two had planned to get together before the end of 2010, and when Sparky’s health began to deteriorate, Ewald quickly set up a three-day visit with his longtime friend. In this heartfelt narrative, a baseball version of TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, Ewald recounts those moving three days and relays the memories and life lessons that made Sparky a winner not just in the world of sports but as a husband, father, and community leader.
As Mitch Albom himself writes, "Sitting with [Sparky] was like visiting with an oracle. Dan Ewald, who spent more time with Sparky than any of us, beautifully captures the magic of Sparky’s wit, humor, and humanity in these pages." Anderson passed away in November 2010, and thanks to Ewald, we have this charming memento that pays tribute to a great American life.