As I went through A Fan's Notes I couldn't stop thinking of it as a sequel to J.D. Salinger's famous coming of age novel The Catcher in the Rye. From the utter lack of direction to his search for the ideal and deeper meaning to life, Fred Exley is every bit the Holden Caulfield. Exley details his life of alcoholism, his dreams of making it big on Madison Avenue and marrying the perfect girl with the golden thighs, his numerous trips to his mother's davenport, the mental asylum and back again, his mindless endeavors with the mysterious Mr. Blue, the Counselor and anyone else he can hit up for money, and of course his infatuation with the inimitable Frank Gifford.
Though it may read like one man's rant about a wasted life and lost opportunities, A Fan's Notes is a reflection of people's universal albeit often doomed quest to escape anonymity, and ultimately matter in this world. Exley's insatiable desire for fame and not so subtle rebellion against society are his ways of attempting to be "more than a mere fan in this life." Oppressed by the shadows of his father and his fellow USC grad Frank Gifford, Exley is consumed by his need to escape. However, he is also haunted by the harrowing superficiality and phoniness of the reality. Unable to reconcile his pursuit of purpose and his ideal vision of the world, Exley sinks into depression and finds himself sustained only by alcohol and football.
By his own admission, Exley is stuck in the past or rather past-present, utterly incapacitated by the continuous wave of change. This book should serve as a warning to people's indulgence in self-pity and constant comparison with false heroes. Indeed it was only after Frank Gifford's debilitating injury that Exley was able to come to terms with his life and accomplish the one act that now defines his life- writing A Fan's Notes.