Davy Rothbart’s new book “My Heart is an Idiot” sure is blurbed by a lot of luminaries — Dave Eggers, Tom Robbins, Susan Orlean, Ira Glass, Kid Rock, more. Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame suggests that the book “contains some of the most perfect and heartbreaking writing that I have ever read.”
That’s perhaps a bit much. Rothbart is a skilled essayist, able to shape his tales of love and life gone awry into enjoyable pieces that often pivot on a shocking turn of events. Indeed, Rothbart’s life seems rife with shocking turns of event, though the book’s disclaimer — “ … certain aspects … have been altered, amalgamated, reordered, refashioned, omitted, or even fictionalized …” — gives one pause.
The shorter pieces pack more punch than the longer ones. “The 8th of November,” which details Rothbart’s relationship with a troubled Vietnam vet, and “How I Got These Boots,” which relates an attitude-changing encounter with a hitchhiker, are among the book’s best.
Rothbart’s unfortunate tendency to fall in love over the phone drives some of the other essays, including “What Are You Wearing,” “Shade,” and, to a lesser-extent, “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Pee on the Wall,” which is the story of the author’s quest to visit urine-soaked justice upon a scam artist.
Here, he explains the plan to a woman: “’We’ll dump these on his head,’ I went on, light-headed, filled with glee. ‘You first, me first, at the same time, it doesn’t matter. We’ll let him know what we think of his scams. We’ll let everyone know. Then — and this is just my suggestion — we should walk up to Central Park and climb into one of those horse-and-buggies, and kiss each other for like an hour and forty-five minutes. I really can’t wait to kiss you.”
As you might imagine, that doesn’t win over the girl. Similarly, “My Heart is an Idiot” didn’t fully win me over.