cover image Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

David Goodwillie, . . Algonquin, $24.95 (356pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-465-3

Goodwillie's chronicle of his New York days and nights in the exuberant years of the late 1990s can be accurately characterized by its own title. A 1995 graduate of Kenyon College, the author failed at a Cincinnati Reds tryout, then went East for the big city's bright lights (comparisons to Jay McInerney's 1985 classic are unavoidable). During his days, Goodwillie changed jobs—private investigator, copywriter, journalist, sports expert—the way free agents change teams; by night, he swung with the best of them whatever the venue, whatever the side: neocon right or Clintonian left; Upper West or Lower East. The author wisely depicts himself as ironist naïf, and he exuberantly relates episode after episode. However, the matters of his steady job, housing and relationships (or lack thereof) never quite cohere into memorable drama. Still, finely wrought details anchor the story in time and place, and perhaps the work's lack of moral weight is the truest mark of the decade it portrays. Goodwillie has written a frenetic picaresque with little soul but lots of rhythm. (June 2)