Happiness is a State of Mind

Alex Lemon's memoir, Happy, is filled with blood, sweat, and courage. It is a raw and brutally honest look at overcoming what fate throws at you. Happy is a nickname and a personality Lemon shows the world as his body deteriorates in illness. The moments in this book are so personal; it will make you squirm as if stumbling upon as unlocked diary.

Alex Lemon Readings
7:30 p.m. Tonight [Jan 7] Magers & Quinn
3038 Hennepin Ave. South, Minneapolis

7 p.m. Friday [Jan 8] Micawber’s
2238 Carter Ave, St. Paul

In 1997, life holds everything for Lemon. He is attending Macalester College, mingling with upper-classmen, and is a catcher for the baseball team. Lemon describes this portion of his life with a reminiscent and shameless flair. Drinking, drugs, and disposable girls enter and leave through the revolving door of Happy's life, and barely a book gets opened. Without warning his world starts spinning out of balance. Parts of his body go numb, his vision starts to distort, and he keeps falling. Baseball is impossible, because he can't follow the ball, much less stand. His first clinic visit brings the diagnosis of an inner ear problem, but when the pills don't work Happy sees another doctor and then another.

I smile up at him, but I'm terrified. My muscles are cramping. The tray slides into the machine and the radiologist's voice grows distant. I close my eyes. I have never been sick. I don't know what it is. The plastic ceiling is inches above my face.”
-pg 53

Finally, it's determined that his brain is bleeding and he suffered a stroke. The doctors claim this rare incident is unlikely to happen again, so Happy attacks life with new vigor: getting back into baseball, drinking with wild abandon, and sleeping with as many girls as he can.

I'm swallowing myself alive. Happy's Hallowed Eve brumbles into Weeks of Pleasing Myself. I celebrate the ticking seconds of every goddamn day. I'm a festival, a parade, and the drinks are vicious. There is cake and blood-slick flesh.”
-pg 123

It doesn't last long. After a second brain hemorrhage, Happy makes the difficult decision to try surgery. The one doctor who will attempt this risky procedure is down in Florida. Ironically, the surgery is scheduled right during Hurricane Floyd, but Happy doesn't turn back, instead he stays to get his needed surgery. This is perhaps, one of the most poignant sections of the book. Surrounded by family and death on both sides, Happy rises like a battered Phoenix from the storm.

There are some great elements at play in this memoir. Lemon's description of his illness is masterful and his knack for poetry shines. One section in particular that shows literary skill is the paragraph, or more aptly the long run-on sentence, right before Lemon is to have brain surgery: this melding of random thoughts and fears emphasizes his profound panic in that precise moment. Lemon never makes himself a victim, instead he appears as a bemused soldier pushing through unyielding odds with the brashness and fortitude only youth can inspire. Happy is one of the best memoirs on the shelf.

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