Summary and book reviews of I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold

I Will Be Complete

A Memoir

by Glen David Gold

I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold X
I Will Be Complete by Glen David Gold
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  • Published:
    Jun 2018, 496 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Book Summary

From the best-selling author of Carter Beats the Devil and Sunnyside, a big-hearted memoir told in three parts: about growing up in the wake of the destructive choices of an extremely unconventional mother.

Glen David Gold was raised rich, briefly, in southern California at the end of the go-go 1960s. But his father's fortune disappears, his parents divorce, and Glen falls out of his well-curated life and into San Francisco at the epicenter of the Me Decade: the inimitable '70s.

Gold grows up with his mother, among con men and get-rich schemes. Then, one afternoon when he's twelve, she moves to New York without telling him, leaving him to fend for himself. I Will Be Complete is the story of how Gold copes, honing a keen wit and learning how to fill in the emotional gaps: "I feel love and then it's like I'm driving on black ice with no contact against the road." He leads us though his early salvation at boarding school; his dream job at an independent bookstore in Los Angeles in 1983; a punk rock riot; a romance with a femme fatale to the soundtrack of R.E.M.; and his attempts to forge a career as a writer. Along the way, Gold becomes increasingly fascinated with his father's self-described "cheerful amorality" and estranged from his mother, who lives with her soulmate, a man who threatens to kill her.

Clear-eyed and heartbreaking, Gold's story ultimately speaks to everyone who has struggled with the complexity of parental bonds by searching for - and finding - autonomy.

1. The Last Kings of San Francisco

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I think you're an adult when you can no longer tell your life story over the course of a first date. I might have gotten this idea from my parents, because they reinvented themselves so often. Their stories have odd turns which speak not of one life, but of many that don't seem to match up, and of choices you'd think no one would actually make.

When I was twelve years old, I lived by myself for a while. This was the mid-1970s in San Francisco, so the rules were a little different then—and yet not so different that me living alone made much sense. When I describe what happened, people tend to ask, "But how did you end up so—" They dance around the word "normal," then realize it doesn't apply, and instead they say, "So nice?" I'm not nice. I'm polite. Nice is a quality and polite is a strategy. But I have ended up happy. Also, I've ended up something more unusual than that: autonomous.

I have a good ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Glen David Gold is a writer best known for his wryly observant, mordantly funny novels Sunnyside and Carter Beats the Devil. It turns out, however, that his most remarkable story might be his own life story, which is what he turns to in his new book, I Will Be Complete.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (562 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A strong memoir that oozes with the excitement of a life well-lived - and well-analyzed.

Author Blurb Joseph Fink, co-author of Welcome to Night Vale
Glen David Gold is one of the best storytellers working today. He could write about anything and make it gripping. As it turns out, he also has one hell of a story to tell.

Author Blurb Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians
An extraordinary account of an extraordinary life. Gold captures with stunning clarity the emotional chaos he grew up in, and that made him the brilliant writer he is now.

Author Blurb Darin Strauss, author of National Book Critics Circle Award winner Half a Life and Chang and Eng
I Will Be Complete is the best memoir I've read in years. It's likely the best memoir published in years. Gold's a novelist and this book reads like the best fiction. It's exciting, beautiful, and clear-eyed in a way most memoirs aren't. Oh, and you'll never forget this charming, intelligent, unique narrator.

Author Blurb Janet Fitch, author of The Revolution of Marina M. and White Oleander
In this dazzling memoir, Glen David Gold shows us the dark side of the Auntie Mame myth. Raised by an unreliable bohemian mother in 1970s California, Gold follows the trail of damage she leaves, marking his adolescence and young manhood, until he decides he must choose between being 'complete' and emotionally whole. Beautiful and deft, witty and searing, like a playful song with a persistent bass line of unresolved grief. I can't stop thinking about it.

Author Blurb Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama
We expect the story of a boy and his mother ought to go a certain way. I Will Be Complete goes in ways you'd never expect. The people shatter, reassemble themselves, and shatter all over again. The prose is crystalline, hard as real diamonds, flashing, revealing. The story is simple, just a boy and his mother's long disintegration, but the journey is darkly complicated, heartbreaking, beautiful as hell.

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Beyond the Book

Popular Los Angeles-area Bookstores

In Glen David Gold's memoir's second section, Gold recalls his experiences working at a branch of Hunter's Books in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles (near UCLA) during a gap year he took in college. Hunter's, as Gold notes, was "part of a local handful of stores that wouldn't survive the new realities of commerce." Indeed, according to a Los Angeles Times article from 1987, Hunter's Books closed three locations on Christmas Day that year - including the Westwood location where Gold had worked - and never recovered.

Hunter's never even saw the dawn of e-commerce, which certainly claimed the lives of many other Los Angeles–area bookstores. But other independent bookstores continue to thrive in Los Angeles even today:

Secret Headquarters...

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