What's Not to Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writerby Jonathan Ames
This wonderfully entertaining memoir is a touching and humorous look at life in
Perhaps all of Jonathan Ames’ problems–and the genesis of this hilarious book–can be traced back to the late onset of his puberty. After all it can’t be easy to be sixteen with a hairless “undistinguishable from that of a five year old’s.”
This wonderfully entertaining memoir is a touching and humorous look at life in New York City. But this is life for an author who can proclaim “my first sexual experience was rather old-fashioned: it was with a prostitute”–an author who can talk about his desire to be a model for the Hair Club for Men and about meeting his son for the first time.
Often insightful, sometimes tender, always witty and self-deprecating, What’s Not to Love? is an engaging memoir from one of our most funny, most daring writers.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The New York Times Book Review
The Village Voice
“Ludicrously funny… disconcerting and refreshingly frank.”–The Denver Post
“A mixture of unbridled libido and hopeless romanticism…. [It] soar[s] with Ames’ original wit and generous spirit.”–Entertainment Weekly
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
- NOOK Book
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- 457 KB
Read an Excerpt
I was walking down a handsome, brownstonish street in Brooklyn Heights and I came upon a fresh box of Q-Tips. It was a nice-looking box--very blue. And it was still sealed in plastic. I need Q-Tips, I thought. I picked up the box and looked around. There were no other pedestrians within fifty yards. I sort of waved the box in the air to signal to the world that I was willing to give the Q-Tips back to their rightful owner. No one claimed them. What a strange item to have fallen out of someone's bag.
I checked the seal thoroughly. It was perfect. And it seemed unlikely that the little sticks with their heads of cotton could be contaminated in any way, though I did imagine, for a moment, a madman dipping the Q-Tips in some kind of poison and then resealing the box and planting it on the sidewalk. He could be watching me at that very moment. But this was too preposterous. I pocketed the Q-Tips and headed back to Manhattan. I had wanted Q-Tips for some time. But it was a luxury item -- I only spend my money on the most necessary goods.
My unexpected find came in handy a few days later. The publisher of my novel, due out in five months, was taking me to lunch at the "21" Club. And the morning of the lunch, I did a thorough cleaning of myself, and I employed several Q-Tips. I wanted to look very good for the lunch; I prepared for it like an actor, because often when I meet people whom I have to impress, my personality is mysteriously vacuumed away. I become as boring as a piece of toast. But if I try to play a role, if I try to be someone other than myself, I can sometimes make a good impression. And so for my luncheon at "21," where there were going to be several people whom I had never met, I geared myself up to play the Young Author. It's what I did eight and a half years ago when I prematurely ejaculated my first book at the age of twenty-five. But at thirty-three I can still be the Young Author; the window doesn't close on that title for another two years.
The first step in my transformation was a bath and a shave. I also washed my hair and worked on my scalp with my rubber invigorator. I then used the invigorator on the soles of my feet to give myself some amateur reflexology.
After the bath, I put sunscreen on my face to act as a moisturizer. Then I put a little dab of wheat germ oil in the palm of my hand and with some water rubbed this into my hair. I then combed back my front fringe of hair over my bald spot. The wheat germ oil held the hair in place quite nicely and gave me a wet look -- very good for Young Authors striving for an allusion to Fitzgerald.
Then I opened up my beautiful box of new Q-Tips. I again thought of the mad poisoner, but only for a second. I dipped a Q-Tip into my bottle of hydrogen peroxide (a very cheap thing, peroxide, only eighty-nine cents for a good-sized bottle, and it has so many uses) and I cleaned my ears. I did this very gently, because I have a great fear of puncturing the eardrum ever since I read some years ago that some baseball player had done just that with a Q-Tip while sitting in the dugout.
Then I gargled with the peroxide and hot water -- it gets rid of germs and cleans up coffee stains. I followed up the gargling with flossing, and then a gentle brushing of my teeth because my gums are receding like my hair.
I was almost ready to get dressed, but then I inspected myself closely in the mirror -- there were three long blond hairs coming out of my nostrils and several hairs out of both ears. I once had a small nostril-hair scissor, but unfortunately I lost it on a visit to New Hampshire in 1990, and I've been too cheap ever since to get a new one. So I tried trimming the nostril hairs with my nail-clipper, but it didn't work. I then tried getting my razor in my nose and almost cut in half the little wall that exists between the two nostrils. So I took some wheat germ oil and glued the nostril hairs to the inside of my nose.
I then tried cutting the ear hairs with the nail-clipper -- even though it didn't work on the nose hairs--and, naturally, I was unsuccessful, but I did manage to cut this little piece of cartilage at the front of my right ear. Blood was drawn. At this point I thought I was starting to overdo things, and sensed that if I didn't stop myself, I might destroy my face as a way to sabotage my luncheon and my whole career.
So I headed for the closet and removed my clothes. A few days earlier a benefactor of mine, an older writer, had taken me to Brooks Brothers. I don't have any money left from my book advance, spent all of it in '97, so my benefactor bought for me a beautiful charcoal-gray herringbone sport coat. This way I would have something good to wear for the lunch. The plan is for me to pay him back for the coat by doing copy-editing work on his latest opus.
I got dressed and tied my tie perfectly the first attempt -- a good sign, I thought. Then I put on my splendid herringbone, and to affect an Edwardian appearance -- to go with my thinning, red-blond hair and blue eyes -- I fastened all three buttons. I thought to myself, I almost look like a real person.
I often don't feel like a real person because my existence is dominated by fear. It keeps me from feeling alive. I am like a Q-Tip -- my body is this stick that walks around attached to a head that is a cotton swab of anxiety. But I think that people who wear herringbone sport jackets must not be so fearful. They're in charge of themselves. And putting on my herringbone really helped me get into my role of the Young Author. In fact, I was a Confident Young Author. My sport coat was like a WASPy, Edwardian suit of armor. But the herringbone part makes it Jewish, so it's perfect for me: WASPy in appearance, Jewish in spirit. In fact, I'm wearing my jacket right now to elevate my mood as I sit here at my wobbly desk. Even in the privacy of my own home, I often don WASP attire. I call this religious cross-dressing.
So my whole toilet and costuming had taken almost two hours, but I had about forty-five minutes to kill before getting on the subway, so I studied my book of Oscar Wilde epigrams. I was hoping to use one or two during the luncheon conversation. Then promptly at noon, I sheathed myself in my Barracuda raincoat and headed out.
When I was on the street, I found it to be an unusually mild February day, and it was also a little rainy, and as I walked to the F train, a man approached me and he sneezed convulsively twice in succession. And because it was so misty and drizzly, I could see the particles of his sneeze in the moisture -- the way you can see dust in a sunbeam. The sneeze-motes spread out from his body a good three yards, and I was in their line of fire. I astutely jumped into the road to avoid contamination, but I was sure that some of the germs had gotten to me, and I was worried that I'd be sick by the time I got to the restaurant. Shaken, I continued on to the subway, and I did feel some concern that I was perhaps growing more and more insane on this issue of germs.
Without further incident, and no sense of sore throat or any other symptoms of contagion, I made it to "21," which is in this tiny, old building stuck between two skyscrapers. I went inside and the place is very much in the style of an old-fashioned men's club--dark wood, low ceilings, deferential staff.
I deposited my raincoat and then went into the bathroom to make sure that the wheat germ oil had my hair in place. I did a little combing and then I washed my hands, since I had been on the subway. Some fears of germs are more rational than others.
When I approached the maître d', he told me that my party had yet to arrive, so I waited at the bar and had a Pellegrino. I wished I could have a drink and let the booze substitute for my personality, but there was no telling what I might pull since I suffer from dipsomania.
Then the people from the publishing house arrived and they were all glad to see me, but I immediately began to bore them. I was as dry as toast. I just kept nodding and smiling, but secretly my mind was polluted with thoughts about my lunch companions in their most private moments wiping their asses. Why did I have to produce such alienating daydreams? These were the people who would be making decisions about my book -- the cover, the marketing, the advertising. How could I maintain a facade of grace and intelligence when my mind was boiling like a scatologically crazed mental patient? My dark side was obviously trying to undermine me. I could feel the suspicions of my lunch companions growing -- He couldn't possibly have written that book, maybe it's not as good as we think. I was losing them for sure, but then I looked down at my sport coat and I rallied. The herringbone took over and I became the Young Author. I was witty, charming, complimentary. I had delicious Chilean sea bass, and in response to the fish, I quoted Wilde on the virtues of pleasure. They all beamed at me, seemed to like me. So the whole lunch turned out to be rather perfect: I wasn't myself and the food was free.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Jonathan Ames lives in Brooklyn, New York.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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