I tend to read more books this time of year. It gets darker earlier, it is colder outside and I like to read whenever I get some quiet time while my kids are at school. Recently I just finished the book "Tragedy + Time" by Adam Cayton-Holland. Today I am going to talk about it.
This is one of the better, and sadder, books I have read in my life. I became familiar with Cayton-Holland later in life. In fact, I did not know much about his comedy. In fact I first saw him on one of my favorite shows, that should have gotten a fourth season, "Those Who Can't". After the first season of that, I started to listen to him on many podcast appearances. I then went back and watched most of his standup that I could find on the internet. After that, I learned of his comedy group, the Grawlix. I became pretty well versed in all things Cayton-Holland, at least as far as his comedy went.
When I heard that he was writing a book I was intrigued. I figured it was going to be a comedy book, but it is not. Don't get me wrong, there is some comedic moments in the book, but it is a tragedy. I had no idea that Cayton-Holland was one of three kids in his family. I also did not know much about his upbringing. I did know he had, or has, OCD because it is easy for someone to notice it when you have it yourself. But his book "Tragedy + Plus" reveals so much about his personal life.
Now, before I go further, I am going to spoil a lot of the book. So, if you want to read it first, do that, then come back and read my review. Okay, back to the review.
The book starts off with Cayton-Holland talking about selling his show, and claiming that it was the worst day of his life. He talks about walking down the street sobbing uncontrollably all the way back to his hotel room. I was hooked from that moment on. From there he starts at the beginning, when he was a young kid. This is when we get a more in depth look at his life, his OCD, his family and his upbringing. His life is not uncommon for a middle class person. But, when detailing his OCD, and his little sister's, that was where it was super relatable for me. He would do his "rituals" before bed every night, just like I di as a kid. He and his younger sister kind of had a kinship in their OCD, and their love of "The Simpsons", much like RD and myself. He then went into detail about his screw-ups, his sister's screw ups, his rock bottom, her rock bottom, which was as bottom as it could get, and coming out the other side of all this a better person. Cayton-Holland doesn't sugar coat anything in his book. He is raw and he is real. He does have an older sister too, and she seems like the most put together one of the family. And the way he tells his story, from childhood to getting into comedy to making it in comedy to getting his own TV show and to his youngest sister's suicide, it is all out there in the open.
The tragedy part of the title is his sister's suicide. She had some mental issues. That much was made very clear. But to hear Cayton-Holland talk about the issues, trying to help her, being mad at times for her outbursts and saying he wished he had more time to help her, it was touching. I, at time with my OCD and anxiety issues, have felt like a burden to my friends and family, but nothing like what his sister went through. To know that he, his mom and dad and older sister did all they could to help, and it still didn't matter was eye opening. They took her to doctors, they put her in an institute, they kept watch over her, they tried to get her on the right meds, and in the end, it didn't matter. And the way he found his sister after her suicide, I was in tears reading about it. I tried to put myself in his shoes, but I have never gone through anything as awful as that sounds. It is so, so sad. I don't know how one comes back from that, but try as he might, Cayton-Holland has found a way to recover. Sure, he will never, ever forget what has happened, how could you, but he has found a way to cope.
So while the book is gut wrenchingly sad, it does have a happy ending. Also I need to point out how he described life after his little sister died. Suicide to the person doing it may feel like an out, but all the living relatives and friends that have to deal with the aftermath, that is hard. And again, Cayton-Holland holds nothing back. He describes it all in all its ugliness and horribleness. I appreciate that from him as a writer.
While the book was not what I was expecting, it is one of the most moving, sad and realest books I have ever read. For anyone that has experienced loss, or has a family member or friend they may be worried about, read this book. It will surely help you try and help them. I love "Tragedy + Plus". The book makes me respect Adam Cayton-Holland even more, and I cannot wait to see what he does next. This is a great book, and a must read for fans of his.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast.
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