Novel, memoir, and anti-memoir, The Trouble with Being Born depicts
the lives of Frances and Joe, husband and wife. Told in their own
alternating voices, they recall their lives, separately and together,
and the divergent trajectories of their origins and aspirations.
"In his fourth book, Jeffrey DeShell takes on the challenge of writing from inside those familiar strangers whose lives led to his own: his parents. The elegant formal structure of The Trouble with Being Born organizes a thoughtful, heartfelt, and extraordinarily visual (indeed, sensual) querying of histories, subjectivities, and the narrative shapes we give to our lives."—Laura Mullen
"The Trouble with Being Born evokes the constricted egotism and materialistic desperation of America's mid-century. The DeShell family seems incomprehensible, spilling out everywhere as romantic fragments, bourgeois myths, the bric-a-brac of blocked transcendence and dogged calculation. I emerged from the reading with a powerful sense of words struggling, like the characters themselves, to organize contradictions into a life." —R. M. Berry
"In The Trouble with Being Born the parents trade riffs, mother and father telling their stories in short, staccato sentences. Jeffrey DeShell's writing of them gets under the skin, the way parents' "autobiographies" also live under their children's lives. DeShell is a daring, intelligent, hard-eyed, and tenderhearted writer, all of which is abundantly evident in his wonderful new novel." —Lynne Tillman
They've taken me to a house exactly like our house. I don't know why. I don't know what they're going to do. I'm frightened. This chair is like the chair in our house. The lamp, the carpet, the couch. I can see patterns in the couch. Boy's faces. And trees. I don't know why I'm here. I don't know what I've done.
"First he puts his hand on the girl's leg. Then he bends down slowly, until he's on his knees, like this. Then he kisses the left knee." He kisses my left knee with his dry lips. I shudder and keep my eyes closed tight. "Then he takes a puff of his marijuana cigarette and kisses the other knee. You like this, don't you Frances." No, I don't like it. "Then he rubs the girls' legs. He starts down by the ankle and moves up with both hands. He moves up slowly, to get them all hot and bothered. First the knees, then higher. You're getting hot and bothered, aren't you Frances." I'm not getting hot and bothered. I want to scream or vomit. "When the girls are all hot and bothered from his hands rubbing up, not all the way up, he starts to kiss their legs on the inside of their thighs, barely above the knees. Like this. Oh Frances. You are getting hot and bothered, aren't you? You might as well admit it. We're not going to tell. You like this, don't you?"
The Trouble With being Born
The Trouble With being Born