cover image Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir

Jimmy Neurosis: A Memoir

James Oseland. Ecco, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-226736-8

A gay teen seeks self-definition through sex, drugs, and punk rock in this sometimes grim, sometimes exuberant coming-of-age memoir. A food journalist and Top Chef Masters judge, Oseland (Cradle of Flavor) recalls his late-1970s high school years in a dreary Bay Area town under the thumb of his fragile, homophobic single mom and rowdy, homophobic schoolmates, who were forever spraying him with epithets. He started venturing into San Francisco, where offbeat gal-pals introduced him to the emerging punk-rock scene; he also experienced giddy gay trysts and a serious relationship, at age 15, with a 38-year-old artist. (“We laughed” after discussing the statutory rape question, he writes.) Oseland adopted the nom de punk “Jimmy Neurosis” along with dyed-orange hair, eyeliner, torn shirts, and women’s capri pants, and weathered familial conflict, a savage beating by thugs, and trying to “shake the sense that I was a stranger in a strange land.” Oseland’s memoir juxtaposes suburban banality with grungy punk clubs, Quaaludes and heroin, and furtive men’s-room hookups, in a stew of atmospheric prose (“The band started playing... a corrosive progression of electronic noises, loud enough that it felt like a solid mass I could lean on”). Oseland’s adolescent sulks sometimes grate, but at his best he presents an engrossing portrait of his emergence from childhood constraints into a frightening, exhilarating adult world. (Feb.)