A fretful, cross-dressing underachiever recaps a lifetime of eccentricities.
At age 40, Goulian has had a busy life garnering a law degree and shuffling through a variety of odd jobs, though he admits to having little to show for it other than an uncanny sense of worldliness. His flashy chronicle begins in La Jolla, Calif., where his teen years consisted of a panicked obsession with an inguinal hernia, bowlegs, pristine teeth and, incredibly, a nose job at 15. Belly shirts, makeup and high heels became his typical dress code, a trait that “came naturally” to him but exasperated his parents and especially his grandfather, political philosopher Sidney Hook. But his androgyny became less of a worry for his family when compared with his personal defeatist philosophy (“I own nothing, and save nothing, and accomplish nothing tangible, and have no permanent hold on life whatsoever”). This resistance to constancy triggered a sudden disinterest in everything from soccer to the abandonment of his law career after attending Columbia University. Goulian writes of the comforting routine he discovered in almost a decade spent bodybuilding, but a stint at the New York Review of Books (to help defray the cost of purchasing a stuffed-animal collection) and clerking for a federal judge eventually lost their allure primarily because he “couldn’t wear the clothes” required of a professional job. A curiously insistent heterosexual, the author’s sassy, outspoken narrative gets kudos for its droll frankness, but it kicks and screams too much trying to be controversial. It’s a rambling story fueled by the author’s graphically described, awkward sexual foibles and misunderstood motivations. Flamboyant and creative? Definitely. But in a culture where few things are sacred, will anyone take notice?
The musings of one hot mess.