Davy Rothbart is looking for love in all the wrong places. Constantly. He falls helplessly in love with pretty much every girl he meets--and rarely is the feeling reciprocated. Time after time, he hops in a car and tears across half of America with his heart on his sleeve. He's continually coming up with outrageous schemes, which he always manages to pull off. Well, almost always. But even when things don't work out, Rothbart finds meaning and humor in every moment. Whether it's humiliating a scammer who takes money from aspiring writers or playing harmless (but side-splitting) goofs on his deaf mother, nothing and no one is off-limits.
But as much as Rothbart is a tragically lovable, irresistibly brokenhearted hero, it's his prose that's the star of the book. In the tradition of David Sedaris and Sloane Crosley but going places very much his own, his essays show how things that are seemingly so wrong can be so, so right.
Searching for love, fulfillment, or just the next great adventure, Rothbart, a frequent This American Life contributor and the creator of Found magazine, has crisscrossed America numerous times and always finds, if nothing else, a good story. In his debut essay collection, a hit-and-miss compilation of failed love and harebrained schemes, he ping-pongs between the poignant and the crude, sometimes with little or no segue. The tone is set right away with "Bigger and Deafer," wherein Rothbart details the elaborate childhood pranks he would play on his deaf mother, including intentionally misinterpreting phone calls and yelling, "hey, bitch!" to her back at the top of his lungs. Often Rothbart continues his essays unnecessarily, like SNL skits that run a few beats too long. In both "99 Bottles of Pee on the Wall," about his Howard Hughes-like penchant for urinating in glass bottles while recuperating from an ankle injury coupled with a growing hatred for a series of sham literary contests, and "Shade," the story of his lifelong obsession with a character from the film Gas, Food, Lodging, there's a sense of narrative excess, despite Rothbart's gift for storytelling. The standout is "New York, New York," detailing Rothbart's bus trip from Chicago to Manhattan following 9/11. Striking a balance between gravitas and humor, he adds fresh perspective to a subject that can be overdone. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Farrar, Straus & Giroux
September 03, 2012
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