Intimacy Idiot by Isaac Oliver

100-Character Breakdown: Absolutely hilarious and genuine. Varied prose keeps it fresh, but detracts from focus.

Genre: Memoir, LGBTQ

Publisher: Scribner (June 2015)


Isaac Oliver may claim to be an idiot when it comes to intimacy, but he’s no idiot when it comes to writing hilarious, genuine prose. Intimacy Idiot shows the reader various snippets of Oliver’s life as a single gay man in New York City, including strange sexual encounters (hooking up with a furry, for example), his job at a box office, and time spent on the subway. The main narrative of this memoir chronicles Oliver’s struggle to find love and intimacy. This is an incredibly entertaining journey. The hilarity is relatable at points, but the strangeness makes it unique. Along with the comic prose, there are beautiful moments that spring from Oliver’s genuity, giving the memoir an emotional component.

Intermittently throughout his personal journey, there are different sections: Scenes from a Box Office, Cooking for One, Subway Diary, and other poems and short essays. While the box office bits connect us more to Oliver, the Subway Diary is much more separate. It includes observations of odd interactions while he travels. The Subway Diary might be one of my favorite parts of the book — almost all of them are laugh out loud moments — but sections like this also detract from the focus of the memoir. Yes, I enjoyed them. And I’d read them again. Still, they exemplify the main issue of this book. It could have used a more natural, developmental and linear flow. Sections that move away from the book’s main arc damage the overall impact. Cooking for One, on the other hand, is a short one-page section that cleverly relates to Oliver’s search for intimacy. While the variety of prose keeps this book fresh, the variety of topics diminishes the structural strength. If you’re looking for a memoir with a clear arc, Intimacy Idiot may not be the best choice. But if you’re looking for a laugh from a genuine and smart writer, you should give Oliver’s memoir a shot.

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