A writer documents the wry and zany moments he’s experienced growing up, traveling, and living with his lawyer husband in this memoir.
Smith (85A, 2010) had tried his hand at writing the Great American Novel several times, including during stints in Europe and New York City, but the attempts fizzled out. Undeterred, the native Chicagoan moved to New York again and settled into a comfortable marriage with a securities attorney named Julius. The couple’s house in Brooklyn was invaded by a squirrel that appeared in the cockloft, a protrusion on the roof that houses electrical wires and insulation, and it started trashing the kitchen at night. Smith’s sense of foreboding and drama was quite well-cultivated, and before he had a full-fledged nervous breakdown, the squirrel was driven from the house by a Texan neighbor named Nicola. Julius, who “dexterously negotiates his own double life as a hard-nosed businessman and bon vivant whose tastes are better suited to Honoré de Balzac’s time than Justin Bieber’s,” left the banking world, and the two began a new life in San Francisco. Written in a mix of prose and theater-style dialogue, the book offers vignettes that describe Smith’s childhood as the youngest of seven Irish-American kids in Chicago; his sister’s short liaison with a married British man who shared the surname Smith; and a panicked hashish trip in Amsterdam. Throughout, the more effectual Julius is the perfect foil for Smith’s energetic love of overheard conversations, neurotic dreams and anecdotes, and absurdities in otherwise mundane situations. The author’s singular memoir uses its mix of dialogue and prose to great effect, with laser-focused wit placed on cherished childhood memories and truly fun times in adulthood. The writing can be ultraconcise (one chapter consists of a humorous haiku), but a full picture of Smith’s life emerges in the anecdotes, from 1970s childhood hopes and dreams to a laudable portrait of a gay marriage. The storytelling is lighter on its feet than that of David Sedaris but just as funny. Whether Smith and Julius are bribing contractors or failing to get through Anna Karenina (“My eyes gave out”), the author’s voice never strays off course through wildly different scenarios.
A playful and often hilarious book full of New York stories, domestic hijinks, and madcap journeys.