Clever, self-involved performer and author Ames (What’s Not to Love?, 2000, etc.) can’t seem to let himself alone, mentally or physically, and he gleefully tells us all about it in this gathering of newspaper essays, journal entries, fiction, and miscellany.
His solipsistic record of naughty adventures home alone or out with ladies of the night, porn stars, tranny hookers, and various kinky people is certainly not Mr. Pepys's kind of diary. Ames is Alexander Portnoy come to life: lascivious, overwrought, and funny, though not nearly as funny as Portnoy, even if he does label his personality disorder as “Comic-Depressive.” His giddy depression and manic misery are always first-person, up-front, and in-your-face. He is partial to drinking and shtupping, drag queens and masturbation, beautiful breasts and behinds, oral sex and phone sex. Even the putative book reviews are self-centered, with a determinedly raunchy affect. If you haven’t heard about his pal’s invention of a sexual artifact called “the mangina,” you haven’t been paying attention—and you’re lucky. Granted, Ames can write. His recounting of his adventures as “The Herring Wonder” (a supposed incarnation of a Lower East Side Jewish boxer), a visit to a gathering of S&M groupies, and a purloined manuscript demonstrate his talent. But all the palaver about anatomy (male, female, or indeterminate) and all the stream of consciousness concerning the diverse uses of body parts (his or not) are essentially variations on one note and, as such, become a tad tedious. Though Ames mentions his editors, his text seems never to have crossed any editor’s desk. It isn’t entirely trash talk, but it isn’t mainstream material that will please the local Watch and Ward Society or General Ashcroft. For the rest of us, as Ames says, “When something’s not your hobby, you can only take so much”—for instance, the author’s report that he needs to grasp his penis when he is writing.
Just once, Jonathan, let go and try writing with both fists.