Loser Goes First: My Thirty-Something Years of Dumb Luck and Minor Humiliation by Dan Kennedy (Three Rivers), 226 pages, $17 paper. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Mcsweeney's contributor Dan Kennedy writes in the popular Dave Eggers/Chuck Klosterman confessional memoir vein.
This genre, like Internet blogs, encourages writers to recount painful memories in hopes that readers will learn from them and sympathize with the author. Kennedy's personal history of humiliation opens as, bright-eyed and expectant on Christmas morning, he pines for a Les Paul guitar but ends up with a real estate calculator.
Accounts of a brief teenage obsession with bass fishing and how he barely graduates high school while trying to enter the record industry, where he works at shipping boxes, are interspersed with stories of empty relationships and other thankless part-time jobs.
The memoir peaks when Kennedy moves to Seattle four months too late to take a position at what he thinks is a trendy and subversive café. Instead, he's ousted by the boss's sister and winds up selling mini-espressos out of a cart on Seattle's freezing waterfront, consoling himself by inhaling nitrous oxide fumes from the whipped cream canisters.
As things go from bad to worse, we laugh at Kennedy, but we also relate. The author's manic writing (Letterman-style top-10 lists abound) does tend to go overboard, but the book is generally clever, touching and, at its best, painful to the core.
Kennedy now lives in New York City and is a published writer.
Maybe even losers can get lucky.
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