Lisa Schwarzbaum
May 14, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Ruining It For Everybody

Current Status
In Season
Jim Knipfel

We gave it a B

A special punishment awaits the distinctive memoirist who aspires to follow-up autobiography. The once new and exciting writing voice is never again quite so novel; the same life story that engrossed us is no longer a revelation. If this third installment in Knipfel’s literary-lowlife saga doesn’t deliver the same hipster smack upside the head of his killer first volume, ”Slackjaw” (in which he dwelt on his failing eyesight), or the second, ”Quitting the Nairobi Trio” (in which he pondered his mental breakdowns), well, the guy’s in good company with heavy hitters including Mary Karr, Frances Mayes, and Carrie Fisher.

And to his credit, Knipfel, a columnist at the alternative weekly ”New York Press,” remains a live-in-the-margins character, content to dawdle his afternoons at neighborhood bars. His eyes are still crappy, his psyche plays tricks, but now Knipfel has two great things going for him: a cool woman he loves, who loves him; and, dammit, a certain spiritual peace. ”I got lucky along the way, and I know I got lucky,” he writes, with little pizzazz but much grace. The punchy language of unhappiness feels like a fair sacrifice.

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