The Rules of the Tunnel/Ned Zeman: Reflections

Monday, June 18, 2012

I have, as many of you know, been on a hunt for extraordinary memoirs. The equally inventive and true kind of memoir.  The it's-not-really-just-all-about-me.  This weekend alone I went through several would-be memoir contestants.  I emerged holding just one high above my head.


It's called The Rules of the Tunnel:  My Brief Period of Madness.  It's by Ned Zeman, whose work you might have seen in Vanity Fair or GQ or Outside.  He's a reporter—witty and smart—but he's also dogged by the demons of depression.  Anxiety gnarls at him, too, worries that escalate over time.  And as therapy of the medicinal as well as the talking kind fail to relieve him of a paralyzingly dark stupor, Zeman turns, with hope, to electroconvulsive therapy.

The madness doesn't quell; it escalates.  Mania ensues.  Zeman will barely remember a bit of it, for amnesia has swept in, too.

Told in a fantastic, sometimes bawdy, reliably funny (yes, funny), deeply intelligent second person, The Rules of the Tunnel is not just a reconstructed life.  It's a book that looks out for others along the way—defining, cautioning, placating—all while offering a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the doings of Vanity Fair, the collective care of friends, and the investigative tools that must be brought to bear on the telling of a life that is not, in large swaths, remembered.  I am head-over-heels for the final lines in this book, but it wouldn't be fair to quote them.  So I will give you the equally fantastic first bit of a book that is just this good in its entirety:

Not so long ago, in the heyday of your idiocy, you made yourself a promise.  That you can no longer remember making the promise, nor anything about it—aside from a yellow sticky-note reading "Remember Promise!"—fills you with the warm glow of achievement.  You lived, if only briefly, among The Great Amnesiacs.  And you did live well.  Reportedly.

The Rules of the Tunnel is, I will add here, a Gotham publication, acquired by Lauren Marino.  I always sensed that I, with Handling the Truth, was in good hands. Now I know for sure.


Bee said...

Those are some lovely words you put in for the book. I don't get to read as much of memoirs as I'd like to, but I really enjoyed the excerpt.

Will look out for it :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Have you read The Tender Bar?

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