Better Than Sane:

Tales from a Dangling Girl

When forty-year-old Alison Rose got a job as a receptionist at the New Yorker in the mid-80s, she was taken up by the writers there—“a tribe of gods,” who turned her from a semi-recluse into a full-fledged writer for the magazine. These kindred souls formed an impromptu club: Insane Anonymous (a “whole other world that was better than sane”). Rose was unlike anyone in the group. As Renata Adler said of Alison’s path, “It was the most nuanced, courageous, utterly crazy way to have wended.”

In Better Than Sane, Rose takes us from her childhood to her years at The New Yorker, revealing how, often, she “didn’t care enough about existence to keep it going” and preferred to stay in her room with her animals and think. She writes about growing up in California, daughter of a movie-star-handsome psychiatrist who was charming to friends but a bully and a tyrant to his family; moving to Manhattan in her twenties, sleeping in Central Park, subsisting on Valium, Eskatrol, and Sara Lee orange cake; moving to Los Angeles, attending the Actors Studio, living with Burt Lancaster’s son “Billy the Fish,” encountering Helmut Dantine of Casablanca fame, who gave her shelter from the storm, and about meeting Gardner McKay, her childhood TV idol, and becoming sacred, close, lifelong friends; and, finally, returning to New York, where she found the inspiration to pursue a career as a writer.

PRAISE

“Deadpan, smart, hypersensitive, and mordantly funny.”
Booklist

“The most radical anti-memoir.”
Bookforum

“Rose writes of her life rather than examining it, and her haunting memoir is exquisitely detailed.”
Publishers Weekly

Alison Rose was born in Palo Alto, California. Her stories and “Talk of the Town” pieces began appearing in The New Yorker in 1987; she has also been a regular contributor to Vogue.

Porochista Khakpour is the award-winning author of Sick: A Memoir and, most recently, Brown Album: Essays on Exile and Identity.