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Crazy Train

Onetime stand-up comic channels his life experience and misadventures into autobiography

Jeff Nichols’ autobiography, “Trainwreck: My Life as an Idoit,” [the misspelling is intentional] could be a surefire cure for depression -- once you start reading about his misadventures, you’ll think, “gee, at least I’m not that much of a screw-up.”

A onetime stand-up comic, Nichols labored through his formative years with learning disabilities, ADD, mild Tourette’s and rampant drug and alcohol abuse. How bad did it get? At one point, he fell asleep in his parents’ vacation home after turning on a space heater, proceeding to accidentally burn down the entire property.

That kind of sums up a lot of Nichols’ errant behavior. All of this is told, unsparingly, in “Trainwreck.” But in the telling, Nichols does make it all entertaining somehow, mainly out of self-aware self-deprecation. Moreover, his brisk prose and short entertainingly titled chapters keep one turning the pages out of curiosity about what rude outrage Nichols will commit next.

Even with that brevity, Nichols’ writing also has a stream-of-consciousness quality, befitting his mindset, that carries the reader along. He does tend to jump around between phases of his life, from stories about his high school and college years, to woeful incompetence as a sailor and commercial fisherman, as well as bombing as a stand-up comic.

But somehow, it all feels like pieces of a coherent whole. Slowly but surely, entertaining all the way, we do see that Nichols is finding his way out of these messes of his own making. And by the end, readers will be surprised to see that despite all of this, Nichols has become a responsible, functioning adult. Kind of gives some hope to those of us who weren’t as bad off to start with.




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