A mildly perverted, mildly humorous compilation of Ames's New York Press columns into one chunky memoir of sexridden angst.
From his young days in a backstraightening corset to the traumas of his delayed adolescence, from encounters with prostitutes (both female and transsexual) to his personal recreation of Mann's Death in Venice, Ames (The Extra Man, 1998) marshals his adventures with his penis for increasingly strained comic effect. Knowing what the word ``onanism'' means does not constitute humor, of course, yet Ames spends many pages trying to convince the reader that he is indeed really, really funny for just this kind of vocabulary (and related experiences). Sex with a prostitute who ends up throwing a cup of hot tea in his face is not so much funny as it is pathetic, despite his cheerful chirps to the contrary. Likewise, his venereal diseases do not contribute to any newly discovered comic territory: the ``w''(art) on his ``p''(enis) may have been of utmost concern to him, but how many times has the embarrassed trip to the drugstore for sexrelated products or treatment already been depicted elsewhere? Oddly, the most amusing parts of Ames's memoirs are the ones not specifically related to his own sex life: the stories of him defecating on himself (both in the south of France and New York City) portray a sense of urgency perhaps only experienced by one with equally explosive bowels, whereas his friend's invention of the ``mangina'' provides the most fruitful exploration into new and dizzying perversions.
Angstridden sex is funny, à la Philip Roth; tongueincheek memoirs are funny, à la David Sedaris. Ames can be their water-boy for now, and maybe he'll join their company when he lets his humor develop organically rather than throwing it into the reader's face.