This is one of those books that’s been sitting in my “to be read” pile for several years. It was something that was recommended to me either because of my enjoyment of Chuck Palahniuk or Craig Clevenger.
This novel, by Brad Listi, is appropriately named. The entire novel is full of short, jumpy chapters, tangents, and random information–but the way it’s done works. It sets a youthful, confused tone; someone who feels lost and is in search of answers.
The story revolves around Wayne Ferster and his version of being lost. A college graduate with a degree in film, he’s aimlessly wandering. His college girlfriend has committed suicide, so he goes to the funeral. There he finds out she had been pregnant and got an abortion the summer before he broke up with her–she never told him.
This catapults him into his own search for the meaning of life. His fortunate luck in investing before the dot-com bubble burst, his travels to Mexico then Cuba, where he meets a young prostitute and they explore the island together. His trip to New York, where his friend meets his birth mom for the first time, and he gets in a drunken fight to find his way home, embarrassed and shamed. His abrupt decision to hike the Appalachian Trails for a couple of months, where he finally gets his breakthrough idea for a movie script. His road trip with his mentally challenged uncle, culminating in a cave spelunking adventure that turned out to be a bad idea. His trip to Hollywood to pitch his script, and finally his journey with his New York friend and a couple of others to The Burning Man Festival.
His parents are worried about him–about his lack of direction in life. He doesn’t want to fall into the same old pattern of go to school, graduate, get a job, get married, etc. But he doesn’t know what he does want yet, either.
There are no major plot twists or big reveals or life lessons in this novel. Which is just as it should be. It’s a story unfolding and not yet complete. There are realizations and humor and sentiment. Has he been fundamentally changed by his experiences? No. But he’s lived in situations that would never be possible when he’s older and saddled with more responsibilities–or if his girlfriend had told him about his baby. Is it a revolt against that alternate reality? Or is he just a stupid 20 something?
It’s charmingly ignorant and youthfully hopeful that these random journeys will somehow lay out the answers for him and he’ll never have to look inside himself or answer tough questions about what needs to be done. At least for now.
And in a way, it was especially enjoyable for me because I did the exact opposite. I had a ridiculous regimented plan… and it still blew up in my face. Because I was doing exactly what was expected of me instead of asking myself the tough questions about what I wanted and needed. So Wayne and I, though he’s fictional, ended up in the exact same place but took exact opposite paths to get there.
Does that mean we all face that moment in our early adulthood of implosion? Where we stop wandering or fighting for a plan and figure out it ends up being a blend of both? It might be an odd parallel that the timeline for Wayne is about the same timeline as my early 20s–he would have been just a couple of years older than me if he were a real person. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to the story.
Either way, life happens. You can roll with the punches or you can fight them so hard they might even change. But nothing is guaranteed. And why waste time planning when you could be doing? There are always reasons to say no to something–so why not look for the opportunities to say yes and do things in spite of all the no’s?
It’s a modern-day “lost generation” story and I think even Hemingway would have to appreciate the journey. Even if he’d never say it out loud.