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Written by on August 18, 2013

Hearts as Idiots: Two Versions

I’ve just finished two very different books, but realized that they had a common thread after all: the places you end up by listening to your heart (or possibly your ego, libido, or a combination of all the above). The books are Davy Rothbart’s My Heart is an Idiot: Essays and Kathy Ebel’s Claudia Silver to the Rescue.

Rothbart is a filmmaker and contributor to NPR’s This American Life, as well as an author and founder of Found magazine, which is based on lists, letters, and other scraps of paper found on the street. His writing is praised by authors as diverse as Charles Baxter, Dave Eggers, and Tom Robbins, so my expectations were high when I started the book. While billed as essays, these seem more like autobiographical short stories to me, and he undeniably has some colorful ones to tell: getting revenge on a scam artist by sending him endless bottles of his own urine; taking off on an open-ended romantic road trip with a girl he’s pledged his heart to, though he’s only talked to her on the phone (hitting an already dead elk isn’t the worst thing that happens to them); forcing a copy of one of his stories on a beautiful, seemingly enigmatic girl seated next to him on a plane, even after learning that she hates to read. The stories are well-written, sometimes funny, often bittersweet, but I found myself getting progressively more irritated with his personality the farther I got into the book.

440x600Claudia Silver to the Rescue is a novel about a twenty-something woman finding her way in New York City in the 1990s. She loses her production assistant job by doing a favor for a co-worker who’s using her sexually as well as professionally, albeit with her permission. Just when she’s completely out of money, she winds up taking care of her younger sister, who’s running away from a bad situation involving their mother’s live-in boyfriend. Claudia eventually gets back on her feet financially, thanks to the generosity of her roommate. At the same time, she gets involved with an older married man. Instead of realizing that she’s one in a long line of his sweet young things, her naivete convinces her that theirs is the one true love of both their lives, that he’ll leave his wife, his family will adjust, and that all will be well. In the process she nearly undoes all the progress she’s made. Luckily she wises up before it’s too late. Though it includes some serious situations, I found this book witty and entertaining, and the plot really rolled along once the affair (and the resulting fallout) was underway. This is Ebel’s first novel; her television credits include Cold Case and Law&Order: SVU.
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author photos from top:

Doug Coombe
Doug Piburn/Houghton Mifflin

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