Alright. So I realise it’s not exactly in a bookseller’s interest to discourage someone from reading a book you’re trying to sell, but I can’t help it. I really dislike I Love You More Than You Know by Jonathan Ames because it’s, well, boring.
The subtitle of the book is “Essays”, so the entire title is, in fact, I Love You More Than You Know: Essays, and it’s a series of autobiographical stories depicting the life of self-loathing New York Jew Jonathan Ames (his description of himself, not mine). However, titling it Essays is a bit of an over-the-top way to label something that’s at best a B-Grade newspaper column. (Nonetheless better than The Straits Times)
It baffles me how the book has managed to generate such charming reviews on Amazon.com. Here’s one from Goodreads.com that’s much more credible than the raves he’s gotten from Amazon.com:
The blurb on the back cover of Jonathan Ames’ essay collection, I Love You More Than You Know, reads “Whether it’s chasing deranged cockroaches around his apartment, kissing a beautiful actress on the set of an avant-garde film, finding himself stuck perilously on top of a fence in Memphis in the middle of the night, or provoking fights with scarred German men, Jonathan Ames has an uncanny knack for getting himself into outlandish situations. He’s also quite good at finding himself in banal situations and making them outlandish.”
All of that is true. And having read the essays and situations referred to, I can only respond with an emphatic yawn. The problem is that the essays do little more than exactly what is described above. For all the kookiness of the anecdotes he relates, they mostly show off the author’s charmingly gonzo life. The prose is uninspired, the jokes are mildly amusing, and there is a dearth of anything of emotional or intellectual interest.
If a friend of mine had room for only one more person at a dinner party, I would gladly give up my seat for Jonathan Ames. No doubt, he would be a much more entertaining guest than me. And while I envy his ability to live a life that lends itself to storytelling, and then make a living off of “making fun of himself” (as his son aptly sums it up) I wouldn’t recommend reading his essays. Go meet him, have a drink with him, see where the night takes you. Or go have your own outlandish fun. It would be more rewarding than reading about his.
I tried to enjoy the book, I really did, because I generally enjoy things with the self-loathing New York Jew theme, thanks to sitcoms like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In fact, following the footsteps of these sitcoms, Jonathan Ames has himself also created one, entitled Bored To Death (which is perhaps an appropriate title for I Love You More Than You Know). Bored To Death is supposedly a huge hit – check it out if you can, and tell me how it is, since I don’t have HBO.