Out of the gutter Jonathan Ames grows up in his own way
Memoirists have taken a beating in the past two weeks, but it's unlikely Jonathan Ames will have to absorb any of these punches-he's too busy thrashing himself for us. As an essayist and storyteller at the former New York City club, Fez, Ames became Generation X's Woody Allen, a dirtier David Sedaris.
For the past 10 years, he has spilled all the eye-popping details of his private life-from his fancy for transsexuals to his bout with irritable bowel syndrome-with the apologetic air of someone terribly disappointed in his own decadence.
“I am part of a vast generation of people who live perpetually as if they have just graduated from college,” Ames writes apologetically in his latest collection, I Love You More Than You Know.
“I am 38 years old. I wear a backpack and have no savings.”
And yet he is growing up. Ames has stopped drinking, so there is a forensic clarity to the pieces he has compiled here. On a book tour in Amsterdam, he watches a woman do lewd things with a banana-but it's the businessmen for whom she performs that hold Ames' attention.
In another essay, Ames recalls the greatest athletic victory of his college fencing career-only to later discover it meant almost nothing to his opponent. Slowly, Ames has discovered the world outside his own skull, and he has rather gracefully adapted (which is not to say calmed down). A few vintage pieces remind us of his wildness of yore. Only Ames could stumble upon a prostitute and her transsexual slave boyfriend in suburban New Jersey. And readers will be happy to know he did not, in the end, need to be fitted for a diaper. But these are just flashes from a more scurrilous past, when the way to our hearts-at least to Ames-always seemed to lead through the gutter.