James Hart, Cleis Press Softcover $18.95 (244pp), 978-1-62778-214-2 Hart deftly describes the life of an alcoholic and the challenging but rewarding life of recovery.
From journeying down the road to priesthood to dinners with the Clintons to sex-fueled crack addiction, Jim Hart has truly lived a life of extremes. Lucky Jim is an appealing memoir by an ordinary Joe who hailed from “a shanty Irish enclave in an otherwise Jewish city by the sea” and ended up as Mr. Carly Simon. This memoir testifies that even love, fame, and success are no cure for the lies we tell ourselves.
Raised in Long Beach, California, Hart experienced a childhood that was filled with fear and anxiety. His hard-drinking father was a frightening presence, which led fourteen-year-old Hart to seek solace in faith and enter the Graymoor seminary. Religion and faith weave a strong thread through Hart’s life, and he pays homage to the beauty and depth of that life through philosophical examination and lush, lyrical language. Along with his early path to priesthood, there are glimpses of Hart’s homosexual feelings and his alcoholism.
Marriage to his first wife lured Hart out of his collegiate seminary life. He describes the birth of their severely disabled child, Eamon, his divorce and descent into crippling alcoholism, and his recovery and second marriage. Hart deftly describes the life of an alcoholic—the bars, the denizens of the drinking community, the many rock bottoms—and the challenging but rewarding life of recovery. His relationship to Carly Simon teems with name-dropping and humorous anecdotes.
Lucky Jim swings from bravery to bragging at times, but the redemptive moments of this memoir are stellar.