BRUNSWICK — Barry Norman’s friends have been telling him to write a book about his life for years.
Now that he finally has, Norman said it isn’t the book they expected him to write.
Norman, 59, said the dark themes and unusual narrative style of his new memoir “Flipping Point” will surprise readers who are used to seeing him as a gregarious face behind the ticket counter at Eveningstar Cinema, the downtown theater he owns.
“Flipping Point,” which Norman self-published, is available as an e-book on booklocker.com. Copies will be available at Maine Street’s Gulf of Maine Books in the weeks before the holiday season.
Norman said his life and career has been “Forest-Gumpian,” a kaleidoscopic, unpredictable journey through art and media that includes a stint at CNN, founding a film festival in rural Georgia, and co-producing four feature films.
But a conversation with Norman includes anecdotes that are less career-focused, but equally intriguing – like the time he bumped into Salvador Dali at the New York St. Regis Hotel when he was 10 years old (Dali was irked that it took Norman several hours to acknowledge the famous painter), or when he spent three weeks sleeping on a bench in New York City because he was briefly homeless.
“It’s hard to talk about me, because (the conversation) can go in so many directions,” Norman said.
That said, the facts of his peripatetic life are not the focus of his memoir. “Flipping Point” is Norman’s existential consideration of how he got to where he is now, approaching the age of 60, living in Brunswick, Maine.
“This is my mind working,” he said of the 214-page, stream-of-consciousness narrative, which he wrote in his office in the projection room above the theater.
Much of that mind isn’t pretty, he warned. Norman said its raw, unedited format was his attempt to avoid sanitizing the account, which includes themes of depression and suicide.
But if there is an organizing principle in the book, it is laid out on the first page in the form of a question: “Well, how did I get here?”
“Now that I’m a year away (from 60),” he writes, “and I have no family except my true soul mate – a soon-to-be 15-year-old blind, diabetic schnoodle named Scooter; no friends and a business that just might be on its last legs, I thought that this might be a good time to keep a journal or a diary or whatever this is.”
Though deeply personal, the process of writing the book wasn’t cathartic for Norman, but rather the “compulsive and impulsive” reflections of a man coming to grips with getting older in a world that feels increasingly solitary, and shaped by internal and external forces that threaten what good things he still has in it.
Anxiety stemming from depression and the tough economics of running a small theater inspired the title of the book, which Norman said is a phrase to describe “the actual point when something bad happens after the maximum stress has been reached.”
Norman hopes the book will provide understanding to those who do not suffer from depression or suicidal ideation – what Norman calls “a fight that a lot of people don’t see.”
And for those who have shared his experience, Norman hopes his stories will provide a kind of mental company, and some comfort.
Either way, he believes his conversational style will strike “a responsive chord” with readers. “It’s accessible,” he emphasized, stating several times that many parts are humorous, and not all “are wretched.”
Barry Norman and his dog Scooter, in Norman’s office at the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, where he wrote “Flipping Point.”