“We live in our bodies, stuck with the same model for the duration of our brief lives”
My Life of Crime, by Tyler C. Gore, is a collection of twelve essays, the final one of which is novella length. The book opens with an amusing Introduction in which the author explains that the essays are highly personal – ‘the kind of stories a friend might tell you over a pint.’ Certain details have been changed to enable a smoother narrative flow, and to protect those who feature, but the events happened more or less as recounted. Depending on the type of person the reader may be they could find the author’s renditions entertaining, or self-indulgent to a degree that induces apathy.
The titular essay documents events from the author’s younger years. He writes of ‘pranks’ that come across as shockingly wasteful – costing local businesses and their employees hard earned money. Some were more simply downright dangerous. Spawned by boredom they provide some insight into the author’s character, something that he will build on in later essays.
Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, Gore moved to New York City as an escape. Here he lived in a slew of apartments that came with issues rendering them barely habitable. He made little attempt to make them more homely. He admits that his family are hoarders, a habit that may have accelerated his father’s demise. When he had to move back to his mother’s home for a period, he set about trying to improve their situation, despite his own habits being similar if not quite so extreme.
Gore writes of his family and neighbours. Mostly though the essays detail incidents in his own life: a walk on a beach; a walk in the rain; jury service; the solitude of city life. There is humour behind many of the anecdotes shared but it is of a very particular type. He describes in detail the good looking people he meets, making his memories appear quite superficial. He delves into how he is feeling but rarely his perceived impact on others he interacts with.
I found The Elderly Widow Problem a bizarre essay, but the first eleven entries are short and easily read. My main irritation was the way the author appears to normalise recreational drug taking and a pornography habit, something that became even clearer in the final essay, Appendix. This attitude grated as much due to the disparaging tone in which he writes of ‘junkies’ while admitting to his own proclivities.
“Why bother when booze and cocaine are widely available and demonstrably more fun?”
I suspect he would consider me, to use his own words, a holier-than-thou prig and puritan for these thoughts. I would disagree but that is for a different discussion.
Appendix is not just long it is also meandering. It details a routine surgery the author underwent, at a time when his cat was also sick, and then there was a snowstorm in the city. If we take the ‘tale over a pint’ suggestion, this is a storyteller who wishes to share every detail of what he believes is highly interesting because it features him and his health issue – a bloated story of a bloated man and a depressed cat. There are nuggets within, for example his musings on why pets are so valued, even by the blinkered privileged.
“As an unspoken policy of the human race, we’ve agreed to trivialize these interspecies friendships because they reveal all too clearly that animals are sentient beings, just like us, endowed with thoughts, emotions, and individual personalities: a moral truth too hard to square with the everyday cruelties we inflict upon animals we exploit – for labor, research, clothing and food”
The author’s wife comes across as intelligent, dedicated and interesting. He does seem to appreciate this.
The writing offers what is promised but, sadly, I couldn’t warm to the tone or content. The author writes well enough but his various anecdotes smack of intemperance – I found them more irritating than interesting. Stuff would, perhaps, be the exception, being more structured, poignant and taut.
Gore’s essays have been well received in notable publications. I suspect I am simply not his target audience. Digressive self-indulgence does not appeal. Perhaps this is why I rarely meet up with friends for a pint.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Sagging Meniscus Press.
Good review, always tough to write about a book that isn’t for you.
Thank you and agree. Sadly, we are unlikely to enjoy every book read.