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I Just Want My Pants Back by David J. Rosen

March 22, 2012

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This book made me feel like I was the only sober person at a party. It made me feel out of touch for not understanding why I should care about the seemingly insignificant problems of these New York hipster twenty-somethings. Descriptions of ichat exchanges, emails, parties, drunk nights and hookups didn’t make me long for my college days back—it made me long for something important to happen. Mostly, this book just made me feel old.

About a third of the way through, I flipped it over and read the author bio. I saw that he’s a former advertising creative director. Which made me nod and think, “Ah, that makes sense.” It made sense because through most of this book, I felt like behind the pretty well-crafted prose was smugness and the feeling you get from someone who thinks they’re funny. And I say this as an advertising creative director myself.

That’s not to say that this book isn’t funny. Lines like “I definitely preferred vodka to regular potatoes,” made me chuckle, sometimes out loud.  And when the narrator spots a Huey Lewis album in a bar’s jukebox, he muses that only members of The News would intentionally play a Huey Lewis song. But these are all surface laughs. I kept hoping for more substance. But the more I read, the more I realized that was like waiting for wisdom in an episode of Jersey Shore (not coincidentally, this book spawned a TV series on MTV, the same network that birthed the Shore). Okay, I thought. The point of this book is that nothing of significance happens. This is Slackers for the new generation. But then something significant does happen—a literal life-and-death issue—and it seems heavy-handed.

All this sounds like I hated this book. I didn’t. It was like watching a decent sitcom. It starts off with a random, rather raunchy hookup involving the narrator’s refrigerator, and has a nice pace all the way through. The most interesting thing that happened as I read was that I found my feelings toward the narrator mirroring those of the other characters in the book. The narrator is a bit of a dick. Self-centered and unreliable—two of my least favorite traits. But like the characters in the novel, I found myself brought back time and again, little by little, by the narrator’s charm. And it’s really not fair to judge a novel based on what I wanted it to be. This was never supposed to be something deep. It’s cotton candy, which can be very good sometimes. I also think I’m just not in the demographic for this book. I may have enjoyed it more 15 years ago, when hanging out with friends, drinking myself into a stupor five nights a week and banging strange girls inside my open refrigerator were things that interested me. Not that any of that ever happened.

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