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Remembrance of Things I Forgot: A Novel

Remembrance of Things I Forgot: A Novel

4.4 5
by Bob Smith

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“It’s safe to say your relationship is in trouble if the only way you can imagine solving your problems is by borrowing a time machine.”

            In 2006 comic book dealer John Sherkston has decided to break up with his physicist boyfriend, Taylor Esgard, on the very day Taylor


“It’s safe to say your relationship is in trouble if the only way you can imagine solving your problems is by borrowing a time machine.”

            In 2006 comic book dealer John Sherkston has decided to break up with his physicist boyfriend, Taylor Esgard, on the very day Taylor announces he’s finally perfected a time machine for the U.S government. John travels back to 1986, where he encounters “Junior,” his younger, more innocent self. When Junior starts to flirt, John wonders how to reveal his identity: “I’m you, only with less hair and problems you can’t imagine.” He also meets up with the younger Taylor, and this unlikely trio teams up to plot a course around their future relationship troubles, prevent John’s sister from making a tragic decision, and stop George W. Bush from becoming president.             In this wickedly comic, cross-country, time-bending journey, John confronts his own—and the nation’s—blunders, learning that a second chance at changing things for the better also brings new opportunities to screw them up. Through edgy humor, time travel, and droll one-liners, Bob Smith examines family dysfunction, suicide, New York City, and recent American history while effortlessly blending domestic comedy with science fiction. Part acidic political satire, part wild comedy, and part poignant social scrutiny, Remembrance of Things I Forgot is an uproarious adventure filled with sharp observations about our recent past.  

InSight Out Book Club, featured selection

Bob Smith named one of Instinct magazine’s Leading Men 2011

Winner, Barbara Gittings Literature Award/Stonewall Book Awards, American Library Association
Finalist, Over the Rainbow Selection, American Library Association
Finalist, Green Carnation Prize, international prize for LGBT Literature
Amazon Top Ten Gay & Lesbian Books of 2011

Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians

Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the Public Library Reviewers

Editorial Reviews

David Levithan
Both Jack Finney and Kurt Vonnegut are name-checked here, and if you can imagine them having a baby, it will give you the general idea.…To Smith's credit…he sews a few threads of the sublime through the wilder farce. Were the focus only on politics, this would be little more than a skit that runs on too long. But in addition to all the Bush bash and Cheney chicanery, John is given a much more personal goal as he travels back in time: to prevent the early, alcoholic death of his father and the even earlier suicide of his beloved sister. When the world of the book is reduced to the shape of a family, Smith's writing truly hits home.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Comic book dealer John Sherkston has finally decides to break up with boyfriend Taylor Esgard after 20 years. However, he decides to do it the day that Taylor completes his masterwork-a functioning time machine, in writer/comedian Smith's (Selfish and Perverse) latest novel. Using this machine, John accidentally travels back to 1986, when he and Taylor first met (and when Molly Ringwald ruled). He seizes this opportunity to give his younger self lots of information, try to save his sister and father from their early deaths, and most daringly, to stop George W. Bush from becoming President. His cohorts-his younger self, "Junior," the younger Taylor, and a group of friends-are pursued by Dick Cheneys old and young and John reaches some important conclusions about life, roads not taken, and what can still be changed. Smith takes an absolutely hysterical romp through our achingly recent history. His characters are sharp, funny, and instantly recognizable in their queer archetypes without being stereotypical. He's not afraid of balancing humor and sadness and manages to combine youthful optimism with the cynicism of age. This will appeal most to a very specific niche audience-LGBT-friendly East Coasters; regardless of scope, Smith executes his tale with witty aplomb.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
“If H. G. Wells had been funny and Oscar Wilde obsessed with time travel they might have mated and produced Bob Smith, who has written the funniest and wildest ride imaginable through the recent past and near future.”—Edmund White

“His characters are brilliantly drawn, the dialogue is Preston Sturges deft, the political satire is damning without being shrill, and you will absolutely cry when you read the last line. How did Smith do that? I didn’t think it was possible to be a bigger fan of Bob Smith’s than I already was, but I am.”—David Rakoff, author of Fraud

“An extraordinary novel: smart, funny, fiendishly inventive, often moving and ultimately profound. I've never read anything like it. Bob Smith combines the ingenuity of science fiction with the emotional weight of autobiographical fiction. He then adds politics—in the form of the greatest villain of recent American history. This is a comic novel, but reading it can be a life-altering experience, like falling through a rabbit hole in space/time, and coming out the other side a better person.” —Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters

"Wildly comic political satire mixes with cutting comedy, social commentary, and a touch of sf in this seriously entertaining summer read."—Booklist

“Bob Smith’s Remembrance of Things I Forgot is a delightful, moving portrait of a man who is given the rare opportunity to literally revisit his past, and the novel will likely be considered one of the year’s best.”— Christopher Verleger, Lambda Literary

“A beautifully written and well-paced comic sci-fi extravaganza, a true page turner yet pregnant with deep social and human insight. . . . Take this book to heart: it will absorb you, change you, and—in the clincher of the last sentence—move you to tears.”—Richard Canning, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide

“It is abundantly clear that Smith mixed the funny with the sad in Remembrances of Things I Forgot, and he has literally turned that ‘genre of life’ into a tangible reflection of the time it takes for humans to forget their life experiences, big and small, sweet and sorrowful; and in the end how remembrance of all things could actually change the world.”—Tony Hobday, QSaltLake

“Bob Smith aims high and succeeds.”—Band of Thebes

Product Details

University of Wisconsin Press
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356 KB

Read an Excerpt

“The prospect of meeting my younger self made me feel awkwardly shy and embarrassed. I tried to think of how I would introduce myself: ‘I’m you, only with sagging flesh and problems you can’t imagine!’ That would win him over. Would he even recognize me? He would have to be disappointed by my appearance. No one wants to see how much hair he’ll lose and weight he’ll gain. I still had muscular arms and a firm chest, but had reached the age where every time I was photographed there was a fifty-fifty chance of a slight double chin vandalizing my portrait.”--excerpt from Remembrance of Things I Forgot

Meet the Author

Bob Smith is author of the bestselling humorous memoirs Openly Bob (winner of a Lambda Literary Award) and Way to Go, Smith and the novel Selfish and Perverse, which was one of three finalists for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction. As a standup comic, he broke barriers as the first openly gay comedian to appear on TheTonight Show and was featured in his own HBO comedy special. His comic essays and articles have appeared in The Advocate and Out. He grew up in Buffalo, New York, and lives in New York City.

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Remembrance of Things I Forgot 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
HarrietteWilson More than 1 year ago
Bob Smith's first science fiction novel is a stellar debut. Bob Smith's first novel of political satire is a stellar debut. Bob Smith's first novel about family love and dysfunction is a stellar debut. Bob Smith's first novel about the complexities of longtime relationships is a stellar debut. Bob Smith's first novel of gay romance is a stellar debut. Get the picture? This is a fantastic book that succeeds on many, many levels, with something for everyone (except maybe Dick Cheney fans...)
WillFreshwater More than 1 year ago
"A comic book dealer travels back in time to stop George Bush from becoming President...." sounds like the beginning of a joke from one of Bob Smith's monologues. In fact, it is the plot of his new novel - "Remembrance of Things I Forgot."Bob Smith is a clever writer. That will come as no surprise to anyone who has heard his comedy. But layered beneath the witty observations and creative word play is book with a lot of heart. After John, the narrator, is transported back to 1986, he is faced with the "timeless" question - what parts of his past should he change? Should he make a fortune buying Microsoft stock or save someone he loves from an early death? Smith is never heavy-handed with his message, even when it comes to his pointed political and historical critiques. The story line is fun and unpredictable with a colorful cast of characters that add depth and perspective along the way. The emotional dynamic between John and the younger version of himself - "Junior" - is especially interesting and endearing. After a roller-coaster ride of misadventures, John returns to the present with a richer appreciation for the people who have shaped his life. While we don't all have boyfriends who invent time machines, some might still be able to make time stand still - at least for a little while. "Remembrance" is a wonderful novel that reminds us how, in the words of George Eliot, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
CourtStroud More than 1 year ago
Mark Twain once said, “The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow.” I can’t think of a contemporary piece of fiction that illustrates this observation more than Bob Smith’s Remembrances of Things I Forgot. Many reviewers have called the Lambda Award-winner’s latest book a “comic” novel, but that adjective doesn’t begin to cover the breadth of emotions it evokes in the reader. It’s equally inaccurate to label the book as “touching,” or even “gay,” “political,” or “sci-fi.” Remembrance is all of those things – but also so much more – which makes the work hard to define, but brilliant to read. The book had me reaching for the Kleenex box one minute and throwing my head back in laughter the next. As a skilled writer and a professional comic, Smith possesses a keen sense of timing. Right after a heart wrenching passage, he’ll toss in a bon mot. The overall result is a tone which implies that life is hard, but there is hope. For example, see how Smith describes what happens as protagonist John Sherkston runs into his alcoholic father: When my father came in the back door carrying a twelve-pack of beer, I thought it was grossly unfair that I had to deal with two suicides. It made me feel we should change our family name to the Lemmings. Smith’s genius is also evident in the way he, much like Mark Twain, manages to write damning social commentary with enough humor to avoid offense: In some ways New Yorkers are all Mad King Ludvigs who recognize other royal families – protocol requires Londoners and Parisians to be treated as equals – only we ludicrously maintain our sense of grandeur as we give must-be-obeyed Chinese take-out orders from tiny studio or one-bedroom palaces while sneering at commoners in Terre Haute hovelling in their three bedroom, two bath ranch houses. The “net net”? Smith has written a book full of round characters – flawed, yet funny. Even the depiction of Dick Chaney, villain of Smith’s tale, has been handled so adroitly that the former Vice-President comes across as – yes, evil -- but also complex and even, gulp, human. Another quote by Twain defines a “’classic" as "a book which people praise and don’t read.” As an Amazon Best Books of 2011, a finalist for the 2011 Green Carnation Award, and a (just-announced) nomination for Triangle Publishing’s 2012 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction, the accolades keep rolling in for Smith's latest book. Since its July 2011 release, however, InsightOut Books has consistently ranked Remembrance of Things I Forgot among its list of top-tier best-sellers. So in this case, Twain was wrong. Instant classics can be widely read.