Misfit: The Strange Life of Frederick Exley

Frederick Exley’s novel/memoir A Fan’s Notes was one of the seminal books of the ’60s, as trenchant and funny on the theme of celebrity worship as any book ever written. By telling Exley’s story in Misfit: The Strange Life of Frederick Exley, book critic Jonathan Yardley hopes to excavate great truths about ”what it means to be a writer in America.” Alas, all that’s really uncovered is what it’s like to be a grandiose, drunken freeloader and boor. In and out of psychiatric hospitals, Exley was a case study in the dark, self-destructive side of ’60s romanticism. Yardley is an economical stylist who can’t write a bad sentence. So it’s all the more disappointing to find him maundering on about Exley’s ”inherent otherness” as if it were a badge of artistic heroism instead of a symptom of the disease that destroyed him. B+

Misfit: The Strange Life of Frederick Exley
  • Book