Biographies and Autobiographies,  Book Reviews,  Non-Fiction

Book Review: Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain

Down and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony BourdainDown and Out in Paradise: The Life of Anthony Bourdain by Charles Leerhsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I’m certainly going to need a fluffy, hopeful story for a chaser to this, but I’m glad I read it. I didn’t expect Anthony Bourdain’s life story to be a happy read, especially with the ending he provided – but I found myself smiling in a rare moment here and there, much to my surprise.

The book starts with a splutter, as the author attempts to cover Anthony’s childhood and teen years. I got the feeling that the author didn’t have a lot of material to go on here, so there’s lots of side-babble about his hometown, random bits of nostalgia that could apply to any bio about growing up in [insert generic town here] and plenty of scene-chewing speculation and assumptions. I didn’t gain a lot of insight about Anthony’s life until the point when we finally delve into the heart of his dysfunctional family. For me, the moment the book really took hold of me was when the author described a heartbreaking evening when Tony and his brother were left in the family car while his parent enjoyed a gourmet restaurant experience. it’s like we’d been digging in sand up until that moment, but now our shovels have hit the top of the treasure chest.

Once the writing settled into a better groove, I stopped nitpicking the writing and just focused on Anthony’s experiences. Wait… I do have one nitpick. Far too often, the flow would be interrupted by the mention of something or someone, followed by “We’ll get to that later” or “we’ll get to that in a minute.” It’s one of those repetitive tics that get under your skin after a while.

Its no secret that Tony used drugs, including heroin (starting injecting in 1981) by injection. Chapter 8 delves deep into Tony’s theories about rock stars and chefs – in which he presents logical, eloquent reasoning for the drug use. That surprised me.

Early on, Tony was described as a guy who ‘tried on personalities’, crafting his look and ways of speaking to match the lifestyle he admired at any given time. And later in the book, his life was described as a series of carefully staged movie scenes.

Part of what’s always appealed to me about Tony was his authenticness, his refusal to conform to polite society. It pained me to learn that he struggled with his identity. But, I’d rather know the real guy and not just a scene from his personal movie. And I really wish he hadn’t staged the final scene.

It’s a tough book to read, but if you want to know more about the events and people that shaped the man, this’ll do the trick.

View all my Goodreads reviews
Spread the love

Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *