I Love You More Than You Know by Jonathan Ames (Black Cat/Publishers Group Canada), 272 pages, $19.50 cloth. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
Because it's easy, it's tempting to lump Jonathan Ames in with This American Life's coffee klatch of Sarah Vowell and the Davids, Sedaris and Rakoff.
Yes, Ames has a distinct voice and writes mostly about himself.
But Ames is really in a class all his own. I Love You More Than You Know, his new collection of essays, journalism and invented words don't ask, it's for McSweeney's is moving to the point of tears and silly to the point of incontinence.
Ames confesses to many things, yet has a knack for quietly making his readers accomplices in his bad behaviour. Whether it's getting trashed at the house of a now engaged ex-girlfriend or visiting a suburban dominatrix while his mother babysits his son, we're on his side.
Part of the fun comes with wondering why we're rooting for him. The answer lies in the fact that, even as he wallows in booze and smut, Ames has a wonderful instinct for life's simple, pure, pleasures.
Another thing to love about this collection is how it jumps from personal essays to reported pieces about a man who cleans up crime scenes and then to a quasi-personal account about covering the Tyson-Lewis fight in Memphis.
Even his mash notes to overpraised icons like Kurt Cobain and Jack Kerouac escape cliché.
With a less gifted writer, we might need a reprieve from such wide-ranging stunts. With Ames, we don't even ask.