A debut essay collection from a young, London-based staff writer for Vice.
The volume opens with a bang: “Things You Only Know When Both Your Parents Are Dead” shows a writer who can be funny and offhandedly profound at the same time, as he discovers “there is something about death that brings out the weird little crevices in all of us.” He continues, “instances of grief, I have found, are unique, two never coming in the same shape, and they can be piercing and hard-edged or they can be like passing through a deep dark treacle or they can be like a long, slow-passing cloud; it can make everything gray or everything sharp; it can hit you like a truck or it can hit you like cholesterol.” Unfortunately, putting the longest and best essay at the beginning sets expectations higher than the rest can deliver. After dealing with mortality and home and grief, Golby writes about whether he’s the type of man who should grow a mustache or wear a leather jacket, the challenges and symbolic significance of autofellatio, the mad obsession over winning at Monopoly, and the fantasy sex lives of the characters in the M&M commercials. “[I am] thirty now,” he writes, “and this is a difficult thing to be. Internally, I fundamentally still feel like I am a lost child still slightly bewildered to have pubic hair. Externally, the world expects me to work a job and pay bills and know what politics is. And somewhere in between those spaces, there is a dissonance.” In his attempts to come to terms with that dissonance, he sometimes feels like a kindred spirit to David Sedaris, but younger and more biting. He knows what material hits the deepest (family, home, death), and he occasionally recycles insights from the stronger pieces into less substantial ones. The last essay, “Running Alongside the Wagon,” about his father’s alcoholism and perhaps his own, is almost as good as the first.
Yes, there are some flashes of brilliance; hopefully Golby will continue to grow as a writer.