My Family’s Reaction to Fame Shark

“I sound like a cheap, mean kyke,” my father raged. “I sound like an idiot, a complete non-entity,” my mother was furious too. I had been nervous about them reading my first memoir, 
Fame Shark
, but none of my jitters had prepared me for this ballistic reaction. We were sitting down to breakfast at Castillo, a Dominican restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side where I had grown up eating delicious homefries colored orange from Sofrito. Now they stuck in my throat.

For me, the book was a monument to the obvious: I was in love with both my parents. But raised by two Jews who were brilliant psychoanalysts, my love had a darkness, a depth, an introspection I’d learned from them. Wasn’t that a good thing? Wasn’t that flattering?

“So, it’s basically fiction,” Mom said,”a lot of this stuff never happened.” It was true that I had purposefully pandered to a modern American culture that had the attention span of meth addicts. I’d cut all the “boring” bits out of my life in this telling. But fiction? No way. It had been hard, terrifying and humbling to write truths about myself: I had been bullied to the point of molestation as a kid, I had later exchanged sex for money and movie roles, cultivated friendships with drug dealers, sunk to supreme unhappiness at the altar of celebrity worship. I had begun writing Fame Shark still half in the throes of an idiotic, unoriginal fantasy that the book itself would lift me into celebrity. Only the therapeutic writing of it had helped take me out of my own narcissism/self-hatred (a diagnosis my parents had once agreed with, in our darkest conflicts).

It had been seven years since the last chapter of the book. Years I had spent doing hard work in real life. I had worked as a journalist at The Forward, Interview Magazine, New York Post and others. I had drastically cut back on drinking, stopped doing drugs, fallen in love with beautiful women, gotten my heart broken, fought hard through much rejection to see the publication of my debut memoir. But achievement was not redemption. Now, I feared my own creation was dragging me and my parents back to a black place of contention we had bravely worked past in family therapy sessions.