I Just Want My Pants Back
I Just Want My Pants Back
by David J. Rosen
(240 pages, Broadway, 2007)
I just finished reading this book, whose title and cover caught my eye and seemed worthy of a 25-cent (OK, 27 cents with tax!) purchase from the Enoch Pratt Central Library's "Books for Sale" rack. Maybe it was the mismatched socks on the cover that attracted my attention, something I could totally relate to; more likely I was lured in by all the sex, drugs, and alcohol that defined the rather shallow narrator, in whom I sometimes spotted a mirror's reflection (except for the sex part) (just thinking about it doesn't count!). Normally I avoid this kind of 20-something "Hipster Looking for Mrs. Goodbar" (typically in some exciting-albeit-expensive big city like New York, LA, Chicago, or even slacker-friendly Seattle) kind of narrative for this was, as one Amazon reviewer described it, "another in a long line of novels devoted to the mishaps of feckless young males struggling to get serious about life and love," turf that's been well-trod over by Brett Easton Ellis (especially in Bright Lights, Big City), Nick Hornby (High Fidelity), Douglas Coupland, and their ilk.
As reviewer Joanne Wilkenson capsulizes the first-person narrative, "...recent college graduate Jason Strider moves to New York City, where he works a day job answering phones and hits the bars every night after work. Alcohol and sex are at the forefront of his agenda until he is faced with two more serious issues. His best friends at college have asked him to officiate their wedding, and his next-door neighbor, Patty, who has partied away the best years of her life, is dying from lung cancer, alone though unafraid. Jason beds one girl after another, loses his job, and increases his already prodigious intake of drugs and alcohol before being jolted into sobriety by Patty's death..."
Though Jason complains about having a "shitty job," I'd trade places with him in a second. He comes in whenever he feels like it, spends all morning texting and IMing (Instant Messaging) his hipster friends, takes 2-hour lunches with his boss, takes numerous "4:20" breaks, and goes out every night getting shit-faced and having sex with strangers - including the coveted French bohemian one-night "girlfriend experience." And he complains because one chick never returned his favorite pair of Dickies pants??? Or he complains about being broke and then relates how he spent $18 drinking three imported beers within the space of an hour at a local bar??? (Here's a tip buddy, stay home, buy a six-pack of Natural Light, and have a good wank - it's called the Economy Plan!)
Thankfully, the writing throughout is snarky and clever enough to keep one reading, with the only wince-worthy moment being the passage in which an out-of-work Jason hits rock-bottom by taking a humilating temp job handing out flyers dressed as chocolate layer cake - it would be funny and not derivative if David Sedaris hadn't already essayed his wage-slave nadir as a Macy's Christmas elf in his 1992 NPR-breakthrough "SantaLand Diaries." Still, Rosen - who not surprisingly went on to develop a number of shows for MTV - made me laugh when he described a fellow food mascot as "...a thin black guy dressed as an entire roast chicken. Had it been fried, I think he could have sued for racism."
Other notable quotables I underlined included:
"I was Daniel Day-Lewis when it came to using public toilets without touching them with my hands."
"You could be a star. You could also end up a cynical New York asshole - you know, you see them on the train, a really intelligent, really bitter nothing who's forgotten how to smile."
But my favorite has to be this passage in which Rosen basically defines today's Post-Ironic Hipster Doofus:
"They'd seen it all before, and even if they hadn't, they'd pretend they had...any sincere thoughts were immediately roughed up and taken advantage of...people laughed out loud a little less here, they were guarded. They didn't want to show they'd been surprised or something."
But I guess what really kept me from putting down the book were all the shards of glass in which I saw those mirror reflections of myself and my world, a checklist that included "pre-, almost-, and post-hip" references to iPods, Bushmills, Pabst, Blaise Pascal ("All of man's problems stem from his inability to sit in a quiet room alone"), Buzzcocks, Dylan, Ray Davies, They Might Be Giants, Ramones, Dead Milkman, Sex Pistols, Devo, Rushmore, Diet Coke, Harold and Maude, Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend (the song, not the movie - but close enough!), and, of course, that so-15-years-ago fad of Universal Life Church ministry (yes I'm a minister and I know people who have either conducted marriages or been married by a ULC minister).
All in all, a quick, fun read that was well worth a quarter!