I’ve Been Wrong Before: Essays

Evan James. Atria, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9964-6
Novelist James (Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe) takes the reader along on a globetrotting coming-of-age as a young gay writer around the turn of the millennium in this promising debut collection. Its selections jump around in chronology from James’s experiences of sexual awakening, at age 10 (incongruously, to hip hop duo Kid ’n Play’s 1992 movie Class Act), to his more mature musings about meeting his partner while working at New York City’s Strand Bookstore. Along the way, James travels the world, from New Zealand (where he turns 30 and visits short story writer Katherine Mansfield’s birthplace) to Cambodia (where he has a near-romantic connection with an Iraqi tourist) to a bathhouse in Montreal, using these experiences to try to better understand himself as both a writer and a gay man. James writes with clarity and humor, but at times his sentences clunk—“I wonder as I watch Vincent Price play the role of pathologist Dr. Warren Chapin... whether I could ever have a side career as a screen villain”—and at others his navel-gazing threatens to overwhelm his storytelling. But aside from these speed bumps, most readers should find James’s account of his journey into adulthood a smooth and enjoyable ride. (Mar.)
Reviewed on : 10/16/2019
Release date: 03/03/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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