Radio personality and novelist Goldstein (Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!, 2009, etc.) relates the details of the anxiety-ridden final 12 months of his youth before he turned 40.
“I wish you could leap from thirty-eight, straight to forty,” writes the author. “More dignity to it than hanging on to the last dregs of your thirties. Forty was the age at which I thought I’d have a house full of oak shelves spilling over with hardcover books.” Unfortunately, the title is a telling prelude to the kind of bland, non–knee-slapping humor in the latest from the This American Life contributor. The author is another squeaky-clean Seinfeld-ian humorist whose more-clever-than-funny attempts to milk mundaneness and quotidian life for laughs never quite hit their mark on a consistent level. To be fair, it’s not exactly easy to bring an original twist to dealing in print with one’s childish fears of turning 40, and Goldstein breaks no new ground in the long history of writers fretting about getting old. The author structures his brief existentialist-lite vignettes by the week, beginning at number 52 and counting down, ending with a chapter on his dreaded 40th birthday. Along the way, his silly midlife crisis manifests itself in experimenting with colognes, conversing with automatic hand-dryers, eating large quantities of ice cream, adopting a toy poodle, vacationing in Puerto Rico, obsessing over McDonald’s McRib sandwiches and ruminating about how the local coffee jerk resembles Eugene Levy. Though mildly amusing, these activities are never as hilarious as Goldstein obviously thinks they are. There’s no real penetrating comedic insight into the human condition, just a jumbled mass of existential clowning and absurdist verbiage that’s more self-indulgent than self-examining.
Safe, collegiate humor that makes Dave Barry look like Bill Hicks.