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Life's Work  By  cover art

Life's Work

By: David Milch
Narrated by: Michael Harney,David Milch
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Publisher's Summary

The creator of Deadwood and NYPD Blue reflects on his tumultuous life, driven by a nearly insatiable creative energy and a matching penchant for self-destruction. Life’s Work is a profound memoir from a brilliant mind taking stock as Alzheimer’s loosens his hold on his own past.

“This is David Milch’s farewell, and it will rock you.”—Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

“I’m on a boat sailing to some island where I don’t know anybody. A boat someone is operating and we aren’t in touch.” So begins David Milch’s urgent accounting of his increasingly strange present and often painful past. From the start, Milch’s life seems destined to echo that of his father, a successful if drug-addicted surgeon. Almost every achievement is accompanied by an act of self-immolation, but the deepest sadnesses also contain moments of grace.

Betting on racehorses and stealing booze at eight years old, mentored by Robert Penn Warren and excoriated by Richard Yates at twenty-one, Milch never did anything by half. He got into Yale Law School only to be expelled for shooting out streetlights with a shotgun. He paused his studies at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to manufacture acid in Cuernavaca. He created and wrote some of the most lauded television series of all time, made a family, and pursued sobriety, then lost his fortune betting horses just as his father had taught him.

Like Milch’s best screenwriting, Life’s Work explores how chance encounters, self-deception, and luck shape the people we become, and wrestles with what it means to have felt and caused pain, even and especially with those we love, and how you keep living. It is both a master class on Milch’s unique creative process, and a distinctive, revelatory memoir from one of the great American writers, in what may be his final dispatch to us all. 

©2022 David Milch (P)2022 Random House Audio

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Subtler Depravity

Review title is from Melville's Billy Budd, a book quoted in this book. A necessary baptism for new writers.

Not a lot of new information for those who have read the show commentaries and back catalog, but still funny as hell and occasionally alarming. Not often do we get to celebrate a book that quotes Milton and the New Criticism before ripping into some ritual chastenings! But you don't have to go to Yale or Iowa or even like those places to like and learn about caretaking from this story.

The recording of Milch reading the prologue is as moving as anything he ever wrote, like Rev. Smith's death on Deadwood. Narrator Michael Harney does a credible, humane impression of Milch's patter, but I missed the man's peak performance. I recommend the "Idea of the Writer" recordings from the early 2000s WGA strike for the full immersion, the digressions punctuated by barking.

4 people found this helpful

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Opening views to a dark world

This is a stunning a compelling work made more by the knowledge of David Milch’s Alzheimer’s. I gained insight into my father’s addictive behaviors and the cruel recompense he paid late in life for all that self-abuse. More, I discovered the intricacies of the mind of a prolific and complicated writer, while enjoying magical tales of Hollywood living. This was a great book. Thanks, David.

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One of the best I've ever run across.

Honesty and grace, humility and perseverance. Riveting and rare. Beautifully written and narrated. Accountability for pain caused to others and himself. Unfotgettable.

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Moving, sad, makes me wanted to love life even more than I do now.

Setting in David Milch’s head listening to the story’s being delivered by his own voice was an experience I could not have imagined if I had read the lines on the page myself.

1 person found this helpful

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Monumental work from a dying genius

Amazing book. Made me tear up at the end. Milch has lived a crazy life. And an incredible performance too from the narrator

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Being there.

If you had the fortunate experience of working for the man, this revisitation to his singular expressive consciousness and process of storytelling is like being back in a
trailer or soundstage at Deadwood, listening to him reveal and illuminate the drama of the scene at hand, rapt in the journey upon which he is taking us.
The further sharing of his personal life and struggles especially the contribution of his wife, Rita give a keen emotional context to this self summation of a true artist.
Thank you, David.

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A Absolutely Stunning Must Read for Any Milch Fan

An authentic window into the life, mind and creative genius of a complicated man who gave us some of the most soulful unique and honest depictions of how people really are warts and all. Wonderful narration, it basically feels like Al Swearingin is telling the story!

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Brilliant, unflinching, compelling

I don’t normally pick a biography, but one of the best writers of a generation developing the characters in a life hard lived—and beautifully narrated—it’s art.

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NARRATOR IS GREAT

the narrator does a pitch-perfect Milch voice, you forget it isn't Milch reading himself bravo

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Genius At Work.

Brilliant. Haunting. Compelling. Honest. Spiritual. Inspiring.
This audiobook may be one of the best memoirs I have ever listened to. David’s remarkable life narrated in such a deep and meaningful way. I will listen to it again because there is so much to take in. Highly recommend.