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Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

4.0 1
by David Goodwillie

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Fresh out of college and following a brief and disastrous stint playing minor league baseball, David Goodwillie moves to New York intent on making his mark as a writer.

Arriving in Manhattan in the mid-nineties, Goodwillie quickly falls into one implausible job after another. He becomes a private investigator, imagining himself as a gumshoe, a hired


Fresh out of college and following a brief and disastrous stint playing minor league baseball, David Goodwillie moves to New York intent on making his mark as a writer.

Arriving in Manhattan in the mid-nineties, Goodwillie quickly falls into one implausible job after another. He becomes a private investigator, imagining himself as a gumshoe, a hired gun—only to realize that he's more adept at bungling cases than at solving them. When, in his stint as a freelance journalist, he unveils the Mafia in a magazine exposé, he succeeds only in becoming a target of their wrath. As a copywriter for a sports auction house, he imagines documenting the great histories hidden in priceless artifacts but finds himself forced to write about a lock of Mickey Mantle's hair. Even when he seems to break through, somehow becoming the sports expert at Sotheby's auction house—appearing on major news networks, raking in a hefty salary—he's lured away by the promise of Internet millions...just in time for the dot-com crash.

Teeming with the vibrancy of a city in hyperdrive, Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time recounts a dizzying and enthralling search for authenticity in a cynical, superficial—and suddenly dangerous—age.

In his heartbreaking and hilarious struggle to become a big-city writer, Goodwillie becomes something more: an important voice of the lost generation he so elegantly describes.

Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
"Goodwillie is a natural yarn spinner."
Entertainment Weekly
Elle Magazine
"In his breakout first book, Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, a breathless, humor-tinged account of postcollegiate life in the fast lane, David Goodwillie takes an unflinching look back at life in New York City during that time.”
The Washington Post
"Goodwillie's fluid writing and gift for dialogue make the book a clever, compelling page turner."

The Washington Post

“Goodwillie writes with wit and sober hindsight about life among the young dot-commers who were outearning their parents and fluent in the mechanics of stock options before attending their first college reunion.”
New York Post
"[An] exuberant and rollicking first memoir . . . one that restores lightness, honesty and enthusiasm to the genre."
New York Post
Publishers Weekly
Goodwillie's chronicle of his New York days and nights in the exuberant years of the late 1990s can be accurately characterized by its own title. A 1995 graduate of Kenyon College, the author failed at a Cincinnati Reds tryout, then went East for the big city's bright lights (comparisons to Jay McInerney's 1985 classic are unavoidable). During his days, Goodwillie changed jobs-private investigator, copywriter, journalist, sports expert-the way free agents change teams; by night, he swung with the best of them whatever the venue, whatever the side: neocon right or Clintonian left; Upper West or Lower East. The author wisely depicts himself as ironist na f, and he exuberantly relates episode after episode. However, the matters of his steady job, housing and relationships (or lack thereof) never quite cohere into memorable drama. Still, finely wrought details anchor the story in time and place, and perhaps the work's lack of moral weight is the truest mark of the decade it portrays. Goodwillie has written a frenetic picaresque with little soul but lots of rhythm. (June 2) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Goodwillie (contributor, My Father Married Your Mother: Writers Talk About Stepparents, Stepchildren, and Everyone in Between, reviewed on p. 94) has produced an entertaining and thoughtful memoir of his struggles to become a writer. Now a freelancer whose fiction has appeared in BlackBook and Swink, he started his career as a Minor League baseball player in the Midwest but was quickly drawn to the aura and energy of New York City. Torn among his artistic impulses, fast-paced party lifestyle, and attempts to earn a living, Goodwillie amassed a multitude of adventures, mishaps, and the odd lucky break about which to write. From stories of dalliances with the movers and shakers of the dot-com world to his time on the wrong side of the mob, he draws readers in with a witty, worldly, often self-deprecating style that vividly evokes the breathless pace of the city. In sharing his career and relationship struggles, Goodwillie does more than just recount personal anecdotes-he reflects critically, yet ultimately affectionately, on the nature of American society. Suitable for public library nonfiction collections.-Rebecca Bollen Manalac, Sydney, Australia Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When the author graduated from college, he tried out for the Cincinnati Reds. He failed to make the team, so he took what was to him the next logical step: he moved to New York City to become a writer. This memoir details the sometimes unsettling, frequently hilarious events in between. Goodwillie first worked as a private investigator and then as a copywriter for a sports auction house, which led to a prestigious job at Sotheby's organizing and then auctioning a huge private baseball-memorabilia collection. The second half of the 1990s saw the rise of the dot-coms, and, though Goodwillie was reasonably happy and earning a steady and adequate paycheck, he was seduced by the glitz, mad creativity, and possibility of instant wealth of the Internet start-ups. He worked for a series of these companies, all of which failed to flourish. His personal relationships also lacked commitment, and it wasn't until the horrifying events of September 11th that he began to reflect on the direction his life was taking. After six years of gathering material, he finally decided to write. Goodwillie's pre-9/11 New York was a city of exuberance and seemingly endless possibility. This picaresque tale also tells of lean times between jobs, run-down apartments, nightlife, and superficial relationships. Short on analysis but with plenty of fresh experience, it provides a detailed view of life in the recent past.-Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Wannabe writer gets sidetracked from the literary life by the Internet '90s. Goodwillie's fresh and invigorating debut opens at Kenyon College, where his half-baked writerly dreams are unexpectedly derailed when he winds up as the star of the little school's previously DOA baseball team. Come graduation time, he's being scouted by the majors. When that doesn't work out, it's off to the Big Apple, where he hopes to get a little of what he'd gone to Kenyon for: "the lure of a literary existence." He finds a bunch of his old friends; a job as a private investigator researching Mafia shakedowns in Chinatown; an on-again, off-again coke habit; and a Cuban roommate named Gus who works as a press agent for Mayor Rudy Giuliani but somehow knows more about the literary world than Goodwillie does. The book unfolds like the life of many casting-about recent grads: in fits and starts, demarcated by new jobs and new relationships, strung together in a haze of bars. The author moves, by luck and accident, from being a private investigator to writing catalogue copy for a sports-memorabilia auction house to working as a sports researcher at Sotheby's ("holding pen for the unmarried children of well-known families"). Then he joins a succession of high-flying Internet startups, and we feel the steam gathering for the millennial explosion of irrational exuberance. Goodwillie tries to hang on to his literary dreams, publishing an investigative piece here, a short story there, rooming with an apocalyptically depressed screenwriter. But mostly, he just gets sucked into the fantasy of easy money. When the collapse finally comes, he has the sense not to wallow in self-pity, relying instead on a congenial tone ofself-mockery and smart, finely tuned storytelling. A memoir of bilious excess, related with humor and just the right amount of acidic sadness.

Product Details

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.24(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.33(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"Laugh-out-loud funny....A wondrous debut."
—Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics

"It's a hell of a ride, with a wry, sure-handed narrator at the wheel."
—David Gates, author of Jernigan

Meet the Author

DAVID GOODWILLIE’s fiction has appeared in Swink, BlackBook, and other publications, and he is a contributor to the essay collection My Father Married Your Mother (Norton, Spring 2006). He lives in New York City.

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Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Goodwillie's memoir is one of the better ones I've read. It's more than just a memoir..its a struggle to find meaning and authenticity in a mundane world. The story is that of his struggle to become a writer. Of his successes and failures, his loves and losses..of his screw ups and sell outs. All are told in a way that makes Goodwillie seem endearing and naive to a reader. We follow Goodwillie through 1990's New York City through various jobs, lifestyles and girlfriends. We stay with him as he makes bad calls and learns valuable life lessons. After six years of molding himself to fit with current trends and putting his dreams on hold, Goodwillie succeeds in fulfilling his lifelong dream of writing. The result, 'Seems Like a Good Idea At the Time' is his honest and beautiful first contribution to the literary world. Two thumbs way up. If you enjoy memoirs, check this one out.