Can I bum a radiator and 72-foot chain from you?
Title: A Life in Smoke: A Memoir. By Julia Hansen. Free Press, 304 pp., $24.
What it is: The true story of a former editor for Playgirl who tried to quit smoking by shackling herself to a radiator with a 72-foot steel chain from Home Depot that enabled her to reach to her computer but not stores that sold cigarettes.
Where I stopped reading: I read the first and last chapters and skimmed about half of the rest.
Why I stopped: Hansen describes herself accurately as a “competent writer … but not a brilliant one.” David Sedaris might have been able to pull off chaining himself to a radiator for a week and writing about it. But Hansen wasn’t funny or perceptive to hold my interest (although, in addition to working for Playgirl, she’s edited health books). It didn’t help that her book had pages of cloying, italicized, present-tense passages that broke her momentum. Her technique also raised questions of motive: Did she really chain herself to a radiator because she thought it would be the best way to quit smoking … or because she thought it would be the best way to get a lot of attention for her book on YouTube and elsewhere?
Editor: Liz Stein
Caveat reader: These comments are based on the advance readers’ edition. Some material in the finished book may differ slightly.
Published: November 2006
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.