Monday, July 13, 2009

Jonathan Ames

I'm in a Jonathan Ames phase for some reason, so I just thought I'd post that.

If you don't know him, the best way to put it is the subtitle of the collection I'm currently reading, which is "the adventures of a mildly perverted young writer". I just read about his wondering around Venice in the winter, and his odd sexual escapades while there, and in Europe. Something about his wondering around Europe alone and neurotic struck a chord with me. I'm Jewish, I worry, and I wa(o)ndered around Vienna for six weeks with nothing to do. And I was there because during my first trip I had met a Scotsman on the ringstrasse who took me to his flat can probably figure out the rest. Getting to know him better I found out he was a WWII fanatic/expert who worked at the UN and had studied for the priesthood, and had had a nervous breakdown at the end of his last relationship. He took things seriously. So I know a little about wandering around and looking for something, especially when that city is New York, where he's based.

I've also read "The Alcholic", his memoir-ish graphic novel about his drinking, and "The Extra Man", a novel about a sexually confused young man who somehow gets a job as a social walker of sorts, but also frequents tranny bars. Odd combo. I got a couple of his collections from when he wrote for the NY Press recently (What's Not to Love and My Less Than Secret Life) that I'm reading now.

There's something in the restlessness of his wondering, and in the "how did I end up here" quality of his adventures that I identify with, I guess. He's a participant voyeur, and always at a little distance looking somehow to make that emotional distance a little less. And he's not unfeeling at all, just probably a little too feeling. It's confessional, but even though it's graphic somehow it's never sordid. It's laughable, and touching, and sometimes painful. It's a neat trick to be confessional, slightly self-obsessed, but charming and not off-putting. Certainly his adventures are odd and hilarious, but there's feeling underneath all of them that he articulates without wallowing. A style all his own, I think.

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