cover image The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt

The Man in the Gray Flannel Skirt

Jon-Jon Goulian, Random, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6811-1

A man wears women's clothes, rejects a legal career, and otherwise baffles his parents in this flamboyant but callow memoir. Goulian, a former secretary at the New York Review of Books, has a Columbia B.A., an unused law degree, and a proud history of menial jobs and underachievement: "I own nothing, save nothing, accomplish nothing tangible and have no permanent hold on life." Goulian relates body-image issues (he had his first nose job at age 15), a militant refusal to grow up (at age 29 he was collecting stuffed animals and calling his long-suffering father "Dada"), or his gruesomely detailed sexual anxieties. Much of the book consists of Goulian fencing with relatives—including his choleric grandfather, the neoconservative philosopher Sidney Hook—as they nag him to do something with his life, but his defiance of bourgeois propriety and ambition comes off as defensive narcissism. Through all his flashy attempts to grab the reader's attention, Goulian's story never seems interesting or serious enough to deserve it. Photos. (May 17)