Did anyone else see Charlie LeDuff on the Colbert Report the other night? He was promoting his new book, US Guys. The interview was…strange. I love Colbert, and he is quick. Rarely does he not know what to do with a guest. It wasn’t that LeDuff undermined Colbert, but there were several non-sequiturs which left him simply looking at LeDuff. Colbert was trying to extract what you would think would be important to LeDuff–what is your new book about? Given that it’s a non-fiction text there should be some sort of point. But I’m not sure there is. It is about the American male. It is about what divorce has done to boys. It is about gay rodeos. It is about bowels. It is about what is going on, which is a convenient way of stating anything. Amazon calls him an heir to Kerouac and Thompson, setting the bar a bit high, perhaps. The New York Times (where LeDuff is a reporter) Sunday book review was not so favorable; Allison Glock writes,
LeDuff wants these invisible men to be seen, so long as they don’t eclipse him. As both narrator and subject he is chippy and hostile. Needy and belligerent. At home in obscenity. An erection in print. Fair enough — if this were a memoir. (“Let Us Now Praise Famous Me!”)
But “US Guys” is meant to be an examination of the mind of American men. And if that is the case, these points have been made before (by Studs Terkel, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Ralph Ellison, Barbara Ehrenreich and Upton Sinclair among many others), better and with less attention to the writer’s bowels.
In the end, we only learn a whole lot about the true and twisted mind of one American man. Who happens to believe he’s Everyman. And if that’s the case, then LeDuff help us.
I found it fitting that Glock mentions Johnny Depp in the first paragraph of her review. LeDuff really did bring to mind Depp when he was on the Colbert Report. I don’t know–I loved him and hated him at the same time. He was one of those so brazenly self-absorbed people that somehow appears sexy for his strong (but vague) passion and convictions (and good hair). Maybe what we are seeing are skewed expectations in terms of genre–in terms of non-fiction / gonzo journalism, when does it become memoir?…A bunch of stuff you did, thematically linked or linked by a personal quest, rather than a true investigative task? Is it me or is the non-fiction market flooded with this type of stuff? It makes me want to take a long road trip, stop at every ________ on the way, then write a book about it.