Four Hundred Words

Are four hundred words enough to sum up your life? Well it is for editor Katherine Sharpe who solicited submissions from friends, family and the general public via a call on Craigslist. After sorting through thousands of autobiographies, she chose 66 to appear in this collection. Many people use places they live, jobs and lovers as indicators of who they are. Raquel, a 32-year-old from Chicago writes about her turbulent love affair with music, while some of the autobiographies are really chilling. Lantana, 55-year-old Texan, describes the kind of intensely troubled childhood you’d see on a Dateline exposé. I was so affected that I couldn’t read further until the next day.

Other highlights include Kelly, a 15-year-old from Taiwan and a daddy’s girl who could do no wrong. Phillip, a 72-year-old Californian, portrays his autobiography in resume form, an insanely impressive one at that. There’s Jay, a skinny woman trapped in a plus size body, and a hilarious look at everyday paranoia from Nora. Four Hundred Words is a collection of so many diverse stories and writing styles that it will satisfy anyone with a few minutes of time and curiosity about absolute strangers. (Andrea Nene)

edited by Katherine Sharpe, $6, 133 pgs, 4320 Salem St, Emeryville, CA, 94608, 400words.com


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