Doren Damico

Be Yourself Books for Writers: Recent Reviews

I’ve been on a writer’s journey with my last few reads: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, and now Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road!!!

Each of these books have accompanied me in audio form as I brave the LA freeways on my insane commutes to clients. It’s been an amazing journey where I’ve discovered the power and majesty of authentic voices. It’s kind of like how the manic wildness of Jack’s character, Dean, grips his friends in adventures they’d never have without him. These good books, written with such bold and original voice, have given me the permission I wish I hadn’t needed but somehow craved, to write like the interstellar dancer that I am.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

“And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven.”

–Jack Kerouac’s On The Road (II.10.5)

I had no idea. I mean, I’d heard that he was a Beat Poet of novelists, but Jack blew me away and back, boomeranging my poet’s/writer’s spirit all over the states and even down to Mexico. I was so enthralled with his drinking, smoking, cheating, philosophizing, vagabonding story, I got myself out to a new open mic, drank more tequila than usual, gabbed with amazing people about nothing and everything, did freedom cry blues jams and had an all around Bohemian night! Yaz!

Thank you Jack! I even forgive this book’s constant whoring and cheating themes regarding women. It was the best and worst of times and guess what? Life, man! I’m alive and I know it. I own time and the road is mine!

Check it Out:

To Learn the True Story of Jack’s Writing of On The Road, Mental Floss

For more “On The Road” writing and adventures, check out this site: Travel Studies

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

“With my eyes closed, I ask if she knows how this will all turn out.
“Long-term or short-term?” she asks.
“Long-term,” she says, “we’re all going to die. Then our bodies will rot. No surprise there. Short-term, we’re going to live happily ever after.”
“Really,” she says. “So don’t sweat it.” 

— Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor

Once again, I discover the wonder of a Chuck Palahniuk sweet black licorice tale. The protagonist, Tender Branson, tells his story of surviving  a death cult with a range of innocence and domestic expertise.  The plot is innovative in it’s layout within time, beginning with the last chapter and ending on page 1. As the tale meanders through concurrent flashbacks, reflective commentary and a clear and present danger within real time, Palahniuk dances the reader toward an unexpected ending. Oh, and there are many important domestic tips, from why to always keep a red rag handy (for cleaning up blood) to the best way to cover up bullet holes.

I’m sitting on the edge of my seat all the way, as I watch Chuck twist time and plot! Here’s my answer to laying out that whirlwind novel I’ve been tapping out for ages. He’s teaching me that I don’t have to make it all make sense until the very last word.  I just have to keep the audience engaged in the moment, even if they are braced in a stiff horrific fascination on a plane plummeting from the sky.

Check it Out:

Cleaning tips from Tender Branson.


Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

“most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked up but you’d never guess it because we’ve either become adept at hiding it or we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. There’s a quote from The Breakfast Club that goes “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.” I have it on a poster but I took a Sharpie to it and scratched out the word “hiding” because it reminds me that there’s a certain pride and freedom that comes from wearing your unique bizarreness like a badge of honor.”

–Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

So grateful to have found this writer and to share her story of living with mental illness. She gets it and she delivers it with tons of insight, humor, creativity and motivational support. From laugh out loud adventures of escaping hungry swans to 3:00 a.m. insomniac dances with cats, Jenny’s zany world is always surprising. She can turn a story about airport travel into a treatise on how to survive the zombie apocalypse, spit out a string of swear words in the sweetest-ever voice, and inspire us to laugh in the face of unbearable pain.

Thank you, Jenny, for teaching me as a writer, to speak my truth! I finished your book and spent three furiously happy sessions rewriting my painful poem on PTSD into it’s new powerful declaration — “PTSD: Potentially Tomorrow Sunshine Daisies.”

Check it Out:

This is Jenny’s blog, The Bloggess.

The Forever Quest

In life and in my art, I’m on a quest to find myself. From leaving an abusive man or a sacrificial job with a good salary, to seeking the writer’s life and finally claiming my love of dance, it’s the always un-peeling of layers, unfolding and becoming lotus flower quest of the authentic life. But the quest isn’t always pretty. It sometimes feels like I’m buried dead and decaying and I’m simultaneously digging myself out of the earth, tearing my fingernails in a mad rush to kiss my own corpse back to life and declare myself: “Found!” Declare myself: Marvelous, riotous ME!

Thanks to these good books, I’ve written a great new poem that is getting rave reviews, I’ve understood an essential new approach to my novel aspirations, and I’ve reclaimed my life as an artist adventurer!

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Doren Damico

Doren is a salsa dancing philosopher poet and fan of science fiction.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Great Reviews Doren! Amazing title selections and fascinating selection of authors. I picked up Jack’s book while shortly after high school and felt an intuitive connection with the beat generation. The story inspired me give hitch hiking a go, and well, as you say, “I’m alive and I know it.” In regards to Chuck Palahniuk, I can’t talk about the book that I did read, but it wasn’t “Survivor.” As for “Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things,” I’m drawn to that one, as it seems like a good resource book for cultivating EQ (emotional intelligence). I have some new titles for my reading list.


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