Book Reviews: The Farrah Chronicles (2011)

Ninety minutes in the life of a very shaky girl
by Christine Mahoney

The Farrah ChroniclesFor those who feel the recently emerging author-directed alternative publishing technology tends to produce mundane work, The Farrah Chronicles will challenge your presumptions. This small story of a young woman’s journey through stylish neighborhoods of broken dreams and borderline sanity is a sparkling diamond of imagination. Written in first person via flashback, we’re first introduced to Farrah (29) as she’s being retrieved by her parents—and into their court-directed care—from an ‘institution.’ She finds it a little more than ironic that the state is placing her safekeeping ‘in the questionable hands of the very people who endangered it. Indefinitely.’ The next nine months provide the context of her reminiscences, as Farrah chronicles through her ninety-minute psychotherapy sessions (with the highly credentialed and determined Genie) what has brought her to this stage. As Farrah puts it:

Life can be a great pain in the ass sometimes. I haven’t taken a poll or anything but I’m pretty sure most people would agree with me. I’ve been around long enough to know that most of us find ourselves spinning in a frenzied eddy of existential ennui at some point in the game. Usually, all we need is a helping hand, a little push to persuade the boat to float gently down the stream in the proper direction again. A person sometimes needs a push, not a court order to relinquish the oars ‘until further notice.’ — page 2

Then, reader, welcome the emotional whirlwind. After a brief bio of early life in Ohio, and a description of childhood trauma, the author—posing as Farrah[1]—moves adroitly, tho reluctantly, into her 20s with escapades galore. Settings are mainly Boston-bistro and Long Island beach-mansion time-share culture. I’m not saying that as cleverly as I’d like, simply trying to be descriptive at a distance. I would not call Farrah World preppie or yuppie or blue-collar, rather young, hot, white, middle-class in-crowd for whom partying is second nature and thoughts of Tomorrow Land are vigorously avoided. Kind of a mid-1990s Sex and the City, New England version… more individualized but equally bawdy. And, yes, alcohol is a factor.

Through it all—even though the astute reader sees clearly how Farrah’s cravings and drama threaten to undo her fragile self-architecture—we appreciate the scintillating, earthy, laugh-out-loud prose she holds forth with. Farrah is a good natured girl weaving down the road of life, desperately trying to stay centered, but losing control anyway. She’s rescued from the ditch and we catch up with her being patched back together. As much as we enjoy hearing her stories, we are concerned for her ultimate well-being. Can she be put back on her feet, will the shrink be able to give her ‘a little push to persuade the boat to float gently down the stream again?’

One becomes immediately aware that there’s trouble in River City when Farrah first branches out on her own in Beantown. Her first big love, Dirk, makes an impression that lasts a lifetime. Not to comment on the actual ins and outs of that benchmark affair, but Mahoney’s/Farrah’s cleverly raunchy, chugalug style will have you on the edge of your seat looking forward to every next chapter or session. [The chapter headings increment ‘ Week xx, Entry yy’ as in a diary shared with the reader and, sometimes, Dr. Genie the Shrink.] Maybe it’s just me, but the imagery of the author’s phrasings in general nails the Cosmic Essence of the Now of her; her similes and metaphors are unpretentiously smart. A sampling:

Not only was Smelly Kelly, as he would come to be known, a yeller, he was a spit-yeller. His breath could bring down a small animal, like a ferret or a guinea pig.

Brandie was a sheet of cellophane clinging to my gray matter, and it was all I could do to ignore her desperate determination to gum up the works. In the name of mental autonomy, I resolved to do my duty to try my damndest to shake her loose without resorting to homicide. It was wicked hard, but I hung in. I really didn’t want to have to kill her.

By the time we got to his apartment, I was wetter than a mallard’s foot and he was harder than advanced trig.

I felt my blood pumping, rushing to to every part of my body having to do with sex and engorging it. I felt turgid and juicy, like a big, human cherry, I stared at Dirk hard, and I didn’t look away. My lips were plump and parted, and my nipples could cut glass. I was ripe for the picking.

At that point, there was nothing I could do to stop the hands of time from slapping me around like a used-up porn slut.

I knew I was becoming the accusation, a loner, but I just didn’t care. I practiced detachment, which is a meditation technique. I read about it once in college and picked it up faster than a frat-boy at closing time.

What the hell is wrong with people? Who in their right mind would name their newborn son “Sandy Duncan?” What the fuck, right? That’s a guaranteed deposit in the National Bank of Pound Me, if you ask me. I mean, really… Where do these people come from?

Much of the imagery is sexual. Which is where the book reminds me of Fear of Flying, though it’s been decades since I read that culture-affecting salient, which was certainly a central-stage part of the latter-day Sexual Revolution. The difference is, Fear of Flying is embellished autobio, where Farrah is the author taking ‘teeny tiny grains of sands of truth and blow[ing] them up into mountains with walking trails and caves and waterfalls…,’ pure fiction. More challenging creatively and more rewarding to the ones on the receiving end of the words. [Fiction enables its appreciator to add his own creativity to the message.] My back-of-book blurb:

So this ambling—occasionally gritty, often hilarious, always insightful—tale begins. A heartfelt story of passage of a young woman looking for fulfillment, or, at least, grace, in a casually indifferent world full of the sane and the, thankfully, not so sane. Love, sex, and Jesus hallucinations… The Farrah Chronicles has it all! A sympathetic and sexy journey reminiscent of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying, but without the neurotic psychiatric preoccupation. — bw

My taste in literature, I’m finding, usually has nothing to do with what, say, the book reviewers at the New York Times tell us is primetime. Everything I like is straight from the SunFLOWerheart, down-to-earth, ‘common,’ yet gleaming with good nature and implicit idealism… and written with the friendly, easy competence of a mechanic who loves cars. And that’s what I see in The Farrah Chronicles. It will move you.

[1] I first became aware of the book when I received an inquiry from a job recruiter, to which I replied that nowadays I arrange to publish authors via Createspace (CS). The recruiter said his girlfriend, the author (Ms. Mahoney), needed some help with CS, so I helped her with initial posting is all. Then when reading the book, I was so taken by its authenticity, I felt sure it must be autobiographical. She assures me “…it’s aaaaall fiction.  I take teeny tiny grains of sands of truth and blow them up into mountains with walking trails and caves and waterfalls…” And so she does; Farrah reveals an amazing fictional talent with breakthru written all over it.

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