By Michael Rossi
Reviewed by Matt Adcock
“This story is meant to entertain, not teach.”
There are many many books I want to read, I love reading, always have and my ‘to read’ list trails off into the middle distance like Star Wars opening text crawl. So it is very rare that a book gets to jump the queue, especially memoirs as I’m much more of a fiction kind of guy.
But thanks to the connectedness of twitter I came across Michael Rossi’s superbly titled ‘Off the Reservation: Stories I Almost Took to the Grave and Probably Should Have’.
I didn’t know anything about this Rossi guy but after just a couple of taster pages I knew two things:
1. I was going to read this book straight away
2. This memoir was darker yet more funny than many fictional novels I’ve read
In many ways it is better to go into Off the Reservation not knowing too much about the plot. Be prepared though for a wild ride which encompasses abuse, addiction, depravity and manic behaviour. This is the tale of a life lived far beyond the safety nets that hold most of us. You’ll laugh, wince and possibly doubt the narrative due to there being so many sheer ‘whoa, no way!’ moments – but Rossi’s is a life that you’ll feel enriched by for having read.
Brutally frank in his confessional manner, the narration of such a reckless existence shines a light on the challenges of being a bipolar alcoholic with serious personality issues. This book tries not to glorify the drinking, drug taking and debauchery but doesn’t shy away from detailing the reasoning as to why these vices have the pull that they do. There are a wealth of escapades here that would render any cinematic treatment of this tale (and I dearly hope that it is being planned) in to adult only viewing experience.
There are truly unforgettable events recorded in these pages, there’s not a man alive who won’t feel physically ill after reading the ‘girlfriend in the pocket’ incident and anyone of a romantic disposition will be sobbing at the heartbreak peppered throughout.
The most engaging element of ‘Off the Reservation’ is how hugely charismatic Rossi is – despite his many flaws and problems, I couldn’t help but find myself wanting to potentially share a beer and some time with such a character.
The flip side of his heavy partying lifestyle is writ large with the desperation, self-loathing and terrifying failed suicide attempts that expose an unapologetic insight into mental health problems albeit through a disturbingly darkly comic account.
As a believer I was interested in Rossi's relationship with God and religion too - I love his line: "I will always be a fan of Jesus Christ; he was the first, best anti-establishment radical in history."
Off the Reservation is a ‘must read’ – a book that will make you want to live a better life. I’m planning to buy copies for friends near and far and I recommend you do the same (after treating yourself of course).
Rossi is like an American Martin Amis - can't wait to see what he does next!
Out of a potential 5 you have to go with a Darkmatters:
(5 - An epic, highly comic, true life, mental health thrill ride)...
GET YOUR COPY OF 'Off the Reservation' HERE
"In my mind's eye Michael Rossi looks like Alec Baldwin in the '90s classic Miami Blues"