Mikel Jollett's Memoir Hollywood Park Recalls a Childhood Spent in a Cult
Mikel Jollett's searching Hollywood Park charts the musician’s odyssey from early childhood in Synanon, a California cult, to backwoods poverty to Stanford, where he was a track star. He lays himself bare in episodic chapters rich with pop culture references—a Gen X This Boy's Life.
When Jollett was an infant, Synanon separated him from his parents. Five years later, his mother, Gerry, escaped with her sons, spiriting them away to rural Oregon. Jollett and his brother, Tony, spent summers in L.A. with their seductive, fun-as-hell dad, Jimmy, who encouraged them to curse and bet on horses. Jollett's writing is lyrical but never ornate: He depicts raising rabbits for food and facing down bullies with "always a little dirt on the cheeks, alert like a pack of dogs."
The memoir wrestles with the weight of his mother's instability and a yearning for his father, whose death a few years ago inspired Jollett to write. Gerry is portrayed as well-meaning but neurotic, inattentive at times, prone to zoning out when her sons need her most, while at others craving affirmation and forgiveness about, well, everything: her looks, her performance as a single mom, her failure to protect them.
Music and his fierce brilliance boost Jollett; a visceral urge to leave his background behind propels him to excel. But he's always cognizant of his outlaw genes, embodied by Jimmy, who stokes his creative fires: "A man can be all these things at once, in one lifetime: a prisoner, a drunk, a pirate, a fool filled with regret sitting alone in a dark cell, a pair of strong shoulders bouncing in the surf." In the end, Jollett shakes off the past to become the captain of his own soul. Hollywood Park is a triumph.
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