Mock-serious confessional memoir from journalist Marin, who displays an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and appreciation of his own sly humor as he attempts an ironical, insightful picaresque.
As his narrative begins, Marin is on the prowl for sex, having recently split with his wife of three years. He appears to be a fumbling, no-score kind of guy, but all too soon he’s achieved a “string of meaningless encounters.” He’s as ready as the next guy “to summon the Bachelor Beelzebub and bargain my soul for some Faustian kicks,” a stance that quickly gets tiresome. So do his would-be pithy observations: “Relationships are all variations on a school-yard dare: ‘I'll show you mine, you show me yours’ ”; “No guy wants to be alone. We want to be with other women. Then when we're out with other women we want to be alone”; “If only hothouse flowers didn't demand constant climate control”; and the running joke, “There are two kinds of women . . .” Marin’s prose suffers from a crabbed spontaneity, he provides too much detail, and many of the jokes lack enough spark to ignite a smudge fire. (Those years at the New York Times Sunday Styles section seem to have given him an inflated opinion of his own wit.) The author can, as he freely admits, be a lowlife, and when he says, “I'd seen flashes of neediness, humorlessness, and pretension. Which brought out in me flashes of disdain, acerbity, and superciliousness,” he might well be talking to the mirror. It isn't a big surprise that his most honest moments come when confessing his warped behavior to a purely platonic female friend; what does come as a surprise is how sensitively he writes of his father’s death.
A good thing this “toxic bachelor” isn’t looking for absolution—he won't likely be getting it from any but those initiated in his approach.