Monday, November 12, 2012

I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow by Jonathan Goldstein

I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow is a Jonathan Goldstein book that I didn’t even know was coming out. I regularly listen to Goldstein’s CBC show WireTap and have read Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible! but didn’t know that he had a new book coming out.

It’s really difficult not to read a book by Goldstein without hearing his characteristic voice, especially when bits and pieces of this book have already been featured on WireTap. There are so many echoes of Goldstein on the radio in this book, especially stories like “Soulmates,” about Mary Poppins and The Penguin meeting at a dinner party expecting to have a lot to talk about considering the whole umbrella thing. I remember hearing that story, and many others on WireTap (the book is divided up into around fifty chapters, vignettes, or, as described in the introduction, Goldstein’s “pensées”), and reading the stories I remember hearing Goldstein say on the radio provided something like instructions for how to hear the voice narrating this book.

The occasion for the book is Goldstein’s impending fortieth birthday, and the book chronicles his thirty-ninth year, as he counts down the weeks until he turns forty. Goldstein retains his existential, anxiety-ridden style, supported by an infrastructure of humor, a complicated combination of heaviness and light, heaviness and light. The foreword and the epilogue are both written by his (ex)agent, Gregor Ehrlich, a self-referential framing mechanism that critiques and comments on the book.

Instead of writing about the book as a narrative whole, I’m just going to include a few selections from the book, to highlight what I think makes it another incredible book by Jonathan Goldstein:

1. “It appears someone has taken a candy out of the office candy dish, removed its wrapper, sucked it, and put it back in the bowl where it now sits stuck to the bottom, red, wet, and gleaming. Someone who is capable of something like that is capable of anything. There is a sociopath among us. I make a mental note to stop using the communal office dishrag and start keeping my uneaten Melba toast in a locked desk drawer.”

2. “Everyone has a hidden talent for something. The lucky ones discover theirs before it’s too late. Would it be more sad or less sad to go through life never discovering you can fly, or discovering it only a minute before dying? I guess it would really allow for a beautiful death – an old man flying out the window after a long life.”

3. “Step one: shave. While doing so, I stop at the moustache and stare at myself in the mirror. Moustachioedness. I look like a completely different style of person, like the kind of guy who’d sing Motown songs in the public showers at the Y – someone who’d shirtlessly open his front door to the gas man, possibly calling him ‘chief.’ When I finish I’m left feeling as if, after a long night out, my face has finally taken off its pants.”

I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow is almost like an extended episode of WireTap, funny, introspective, and never incidental.

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