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A Way of Life, Like Any Other

A Way of Life, Like Any Other

by Darcy O'Brien, introduction by Seamus Heaney

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Winner of the 1978 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel

The hero of Darcy O'Brien's A Way of Life, Like Any Other is a child of Hollywood, and once his life was a glittery dream. His father starred in Westerns. His mother was a goddess of the silver screen. The family enjoyed the high life on their estate, Casa Fiesta. But his parents' careers have crashed since then, and their marriage has broken up too.

Lovesick and sex-crazed, the mother sets out on an intercontinental quest for the right—or wrong—man, while her mild-mannered but manipulative former husband clings to his memories in California. And their teenage son? How he struggles both to keep faith with his family and to get by himself, and what in the end he must do to break free, makes for a classic coming-of-age story—a novel that combines keen insight and devastating wit to hilarious and heartbreaking Darcy O’Brien, introduction by Seamus Heaney

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9780940322790
Pages: 176
Publication Date:


[A] little gem of a novel...a masterwork of Hollywood fiction.

A hysterically funny coming—of—age story set in Hollywood in the '40s...a kind of Catcher in the Rye for the Cheap Trick generation.
— GQ

How is it that this minor comic masterpiece could ever have gone out of print? Darcy O'Brien's 1977 novel...takes us into an alien culture, Hollywood in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and evokes that kitschy world with spectacularly deadpan humor.
— Michael Dirda, The Atlantic Monthly

A hilarious addition to the fabulous Hollywood novel, this time laconic, understated, deadpan, ruthlessly cutting from scene to scene and character to character, and both witty and moving. I enjoyed it enormously, and recommend it unreservedly as a funny, serious, literate, and intelligent book.
The Guardian

It is the real thing....It's bound to go like a greyhound, fast and fine.
— Seamus Heaney

This novel's teen—age hero, a kind of West Coast Holden Caulfield, tells of his surreal coming of age in Hollywood as the son of a former cowboy star and a faded actress. When their marriage breaks up, he bounces around town trying to find his bearings, with results both farcical and serious.

O'Brien's storytelling voice is at once eminently sensible and attuned to absurdity; he sees what's amusing in his world without rendering it as caricature....A Way of Life, Like Any Other takes the same sane, amused attitude to the hyperbolic reality that is Hollywood. Like an infinitely slyer Margaret Mead, O'Brien shows us the culture he grew up in, and living up to his title, helps us understand how this way of life is like any other — sort of, anyway.
— John Powers, LA Weekly, Best L.A. Novel

Spawned by a pair of movie stars from Hollywood's golden age, the unnamed boy narrator of this indirect and vinegary little book wonders: Was there ever so pampered an ass as mine?
Kirkus Reviews

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