Review: Rotherbarts essays offer appealing wisdom and charm
MY HEART IS AN IDIOT. By Davy Rothbart. Farrar Straus Giroux, 320 pages. $25.
“My Heart is an Idiot” by Davy Rothbart comes packaged with eye-catching endorsements. Kid Rock says, “Davy’s as real as it gets. Dave Eggers calls Rothbart “genuine, wide-eyed and hopeful.”
Widely known as the creator of Found magazine, a collection of found notes, items, photographs and other discarded or lost items published online and in print, Rothbart is also a frequent contributor to NPR’s “This American Life.” In his debut collection of essays, the author offers a fresh perspective on the foolish things we do for love.
Rothbart can talk to anyone. He is a charming, likable guy whose over-the-top adventures read as slightly implausible but entertaining tales. To most readers, the plausibility won’t matter because the stories are good.
In “Human Snowball,” Rothbart takes a Greyhound bus from his home in Detroit to Buffalo, N.Y., to surprise a girl (who “was about to become my girlfriend, I hoped”) on Valentine’s Day.
His seatmate, an “ancient-looking black guy,” confesses that it’s his 110th birthday and he is on his way to visit family members. Rothbart takes the old man under his wing, even as he realizes the trip is a disaster in the making, because “once you’re sitting there and you’ve got a needle in your hands, what else is there to do but poke your finger and see the blood?” Readers can’t help but get caught up in the adventure.
The adventures derive from the author’s interactions with strangers — like the hitchhiker headed to the Grand Canyon and Missy Freeze, a beautiful St. Pauli Girl. Each essay involves a journey and advances the idea that if you open yourself up to others good things will result.
Readers follow this pied piper as he stumbles his way through such experiences as falling in love with a character from the ’90s movie “Gas, Food, Lodging.” Along the way, he realizes that “sometimes in life things don’t go the way you hoped ... but still, somehow, it all worked out okay.”
Occasionally these epiphanies feel forced and are hard to swallow, but for the most part, Rothbart’s gentle wisdom rings true.
Reviewer Amy Mercer is a writer in Charleston.