I feel like I'm on a boat sailing to some island where I don't know anybody. I'm on a boat someone is operating and we aren't in touch.
So begins David Milch's urgent accounting of his increasingly strange present and often painful past. From the start, Milch's life seems destined to echo that of his father, a successful if drug-addicted surgeon. Almost every achievement is accompanied by an act of self-immolation, but the deepest sadnesses also contain moments of grace.
Betting on race horses and stealing booze at eight years old, mentored by Robert Penn Warren and excoriated by Richard Yates at twenty-one, Milch never did anything by half. He got into Yale Law only to be expelled for shooting out streetlights with a shotgun. He paused his studies at the Iowa Writers' Workshop to manufacture acid in Cuernavaca. He created and wrote some of the most lauded television series of all time, made a family and pursued sobriety, and then lost his fortune betting horses just as his father had taught him.
Like Milch's best screenwriting, Life's Work explores how chance encounters, self-deception, and luck shape the people we become, and wrestles with what it means to have felt and caused pain, even and especially with those we love, and how you keep living. It is both a masterclass on Milch's unique creative process, and a distinctive, revelatory memoir from one of the great American writers, in what may be his final dispatch to us all.
Life’s Work is one of the best books about television I’ve read. It’s funny, discursive, literate, druggy, self-absorbed, fidgety, replete with intense perceptions… You finish feeling you’ve really met someone. Milch was his own best creation
Dwight Garner, The New York Times
The most gorgeously humane voice I've encountered in a work of nonfiction in a long while. I can think of few recent books that have pulsed with life this transparently, this powerfully.
Rick Moody, author of The Ice Storm
Like the best memoirs, Life's Work is intimate, exquisitely observed, and intense. But unlike most - and what sets it apart - is the heartbreak it embodies, the finality it signals. This is David Milch's farewell, and it will rock you
Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief