From the age of three Jonathan Self had only one ambition: not to be like his father. Despite his determination to be a better man -- and a better parent than his own had been -- Jonathan was a twice-divorced father of three and, at age thirty-five, spiraling. Self Abuse is the story of Jonathan's efforts to break free from the cycle of despair and dysfunction that characterized his youth. A brilliantly rendered, unapologetic memoir about the pain and joy of parenthood, Jonathan's story is as heartbreaking, redemptive, and unforgettable as it is true.
At the start of his first book, Self describes how his British father met his American mother on a stateside trip. Though both were married, they started an affair, and she sailed to England in fall 1958, pregnant with Jonathan. Another son followed, but the parents, by then married to each other, fought, sometimes violently, and the children were often victims of various forms of emotional, physical and psychological abuse. The marriage ended, but even apart, Self's parents managed to abuse each other and their sons. At school, Self was subjected to sexual abuse by his male teachers, yet he completed his education and launched himself into adult life, where he perpetuated the dysfunction he'd known since boyhood with his own failed marriages and drug use. Yet once he became a father himself, he decided to examine his life. His life was unquestionably a chain of broken links, and there's a welcome absence of any easy, American, trying-to-fit-the-pieces-together sentiment that distinguishes Self's memoir from others of its kind. However, Self is so relentlessly thorough in telling readers everything that all the details, episodes and comments become overwhelming. Line for line, the writing is unimpeachable, with a sly, remote narrative tone. It feels as if the author got his entire "self" onto the page, which, in the end, may be just too much.