Once again, I'm not really sure why I requested Jonathan Ames's essay collection (with a long short story in the beginning to kick things off, and a few more stories at the end) The Double Life is Twice as Good from the library, but one day there it was, waiting for me. So why not?
I brought it home, and I read almost the whole thing, but now I can't remember much about it except that it wasn't really for me, and also that one of the essays is Ames's interview with Marilyn Manson, which was actually quite interesting. The short story wasn't dull, I'll give it that: titled "Bored To Death," it is the story of a man in his forties who places an ad on CraigsList that he's available to take on missing persons cases (although he is qualified to do no such thing), and who ends up getting in a little over his head. The persona of the main character seems somewhat similar to Ames's persona in his essays, so I was too distracted wondering how much of the story was autobiographical. Mr. CR, however, in an interesting dissenting opinion, actually liked the story quite a bit.
At the risk of sounding like a prude, some of the essays were a bit too personal for me, although I was quite amused by the one in which Ames takes a class on how to please a woman (that's right, ladies, there's some women out there trying to teach men how to please us, using such props as peaches--let's hear it for those hard-working gals!). That essay contained several of my favorite quotes, including: "There was a brief period in 1990, when I was twenty-six and read a book on the female orgasm called For Yourself, that I had, momentarily, a firm idea where the clitoris is, but it was some kind of high math and my mind could not hold on to the information for long."
In looking back on it, I think I enjoyed The Double Life is Twice as Good more than I thought I had. Will I look up any of his other books, though? I don't think so.
And then there's Augusten Burroughs's new Christmas-themed collection titled You Better Not Cry. I don't know why I keep bringing Augusten home; I think it's because a reader I respect really loves him. But again, this collection is not for me. In the first story, Augusten remembers how he couldn't keep Santa and Jesus straight, since he kept hearing about them both around Christmastime. Which is kind of amusing. But then it turns into a story where he ate the plastic face off of a life-size Santa that his grandparents brought his family, and at some point it all just becomes too sad. Normally I don't mind dark and I certainly love cynical and bitter, but sometimes when books are THIS sad they just don't work for me. Writers like David Sedaris (not my favorite, but I do prefer him and Rakoff to Burroughs) and Hollis Gillespie are kind of sad, and definitely dark, but something about them doesn't make me want to lay down and give up and die, which is what reading Augusten always does to me. This book will not be making it into my holiday routine.