As you read the hilarious beginning of Gone With the Mind, published last month by Little, Brown and Company, understand that it’s the fictional author’s mother speaking . . . in a shopping mall . . . with no one for an audience but her son (who has to wait 40 pages before her mind-numbing introduction is over) and two shift workers from Sbarro and Panda Express who are just on a break and glued to their phones. And things only get more outrageous from here. You can buy the book at local bookstores and here and here. You can connect with Mark Leyner by following him on Twitter.com/LeynerMark.
SO BEGINS Gone With the Mind, my son’s autobiography, excerpts from which he will be reading tonight.
Mark Leyner was born at the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey, on January 4, 1956. I was twenty-one years old. During my pregnancy, Mark’s father (my ex-husband, Joel) and I were living in a one-bedroom apartment in a small brick building at 225 Union Street in Jersey City, between Bergen Avenue and the Boulevard. We paid, as I remember, fifty dollars a month in rent. I don’t know why I remember all that so exactly . . . perhaps because it was our very first apartment. At any rate, about five or six weeks into the pregnancy, I began experiencing terrible, terrible morning sickness. Severe morning sickness. This was at the end of April in 1955. I would throw up all day and all night. (The medical term for this is hyperemesis gravidarum.) And I lost a significant amount of weight. I was down to something ridiculous like eighty-five pounds. My obstetrician-gynecologist, my ob-gyn—although we didn’t abbreviate it back then—was a man named Dr. Schneckendorf. This Dr. Schneckendorf, interestingly enough, had been my own mother’s doctor when she gave birth to me in 1934. And he was a kindly old gent. But nobody really helped with the nausea. Most men, and I’d say especially doctors, looked on it as a form of self-indulgence. I valiantly tried to do everything humanly possible to keep it under control, but . . . people really thought of it as some sort of psychosomatic malady, almost like a form of malingering, as if I were simply this spoiled Jewish princess. That’s the overwhelming feeling I got from most men, and certainly from most men in the medical profession at that time. At about three months, I began to “feel life,” which is the expression we used then for a mother’s first sensations of the fetus moving around in her uterus. And I could see an outline of his leg sticking out on my right side. He was a very high baby. And I remember being dismayed by what people said—that when you feel life, the nausea would abate—because that certainly didn’t come to pass for me. I was going to NYU at the time—I was finishing up my sophomore year, I think. My father, at one point, had refused to continue paying for my school. He said to me, Well, you went and got married so young, and now you need to go out and work, and you and your husband need to take care of your own financial obligations; I’m not taking care of you anymore. So I went and got a job at a moving and storage company on Ocean Avenue in Jersey City, where I did billing and secretarial work. And I was terrible at it. Terrible! And I went and told my father that I just couldn’t stand being cooped up in that office on Ocean Avenue anymore, and he relented and changed his mind and agreed to help pay for NYU again. But it was very, very difficult for me at that point, given how sick I was feeling just about all the time, throwing up every single day, all day long, and I was missing exams and I was taking Incompletes, and I had no choice but to drop out, essentially. But my husband and I wanted a baby very, very much, and it was also a good time to get pregnant to protect him from the draft—this was only a couple of years after the Korean War. So I tried the best I could to just buck up and get through it.
Excerpted from Gone With the Mind, copyright ©2016 by Mark Leyner. Used with permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York. All rights reserved.