In this collection of creative non-fiction, or “true stories,” as the author calls them, Kennedy captures the essential purpose and the deeper good of her subjects--from the author of The Joy of Sed to the world's smartest parrot.
Pagan Kennedy is attracted to quirky characters with eccentric ideas. Who isn’t these days? It seems that newscasts and magazines are filled with stories about the slightly odd and their crazy antics. But unlike lesser journalists, who wrap up their stories on a note of “well, isn’t that just too funny,” Kennedy uses the quirks only as a starting point. In this collection of creative non-fiction, or “true stories,” as the author calls them, Kennedy captures the essential purpose and the deeper good of her subjects.
It helps that Kennedy writes about people who are genuinely interesting. The title story tells of Alex Comfort, author of The Joy of Sex, who was as repressed as any suburbanite before he found the inspiration to write his swinger bible. But Comfort’s grandest revelation came decades later, when he was paralyzed by a stroke. Despite years of advocating that we should take control of our own bodies and pleasures, he was shown, forcefully, that our physical selves don’t always do what our minds want.
Kennedy’s other subjects include MIT scientists designing inventions for those who live on $2 a day; Alex, the world’s smartest parrot; and Conor Oberst, the singer who drives English majors wild. In every case, even if you think you know the profilee’s story, Kennedy adds a new layer. Although her insights never quite reach the life-changing level of the most enduring essays—these are more ephemeral pieces—the writing is captivating, and the characters, including Kennedy herself, are inspiring.