Top positive review
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An Interesting Look At A Guy's Attempt To Change
on August 12, 2009
It Feels So Good When I Stop (from here on out IFSGWIS) is about a man at his wits end. The book starts with the marriage and separation of Jocelyn and the narrator (an Everyman type character who is never given a name). After three days of being married (and years of an on again off again relationship), he leaves, runs away for Cape Cod to live with his sister's ex-husband James. There, he experiences the daily life of an unemployed man in his twenties struggling to figure out what's next. He babysits Roy, his sister's son, and becomes incredibly attached, regardless of his desire to never have children. He meets Marie and helps her film a documentary. He makes friends with the locals and learns where he can and can't ride a bike. From the back of the book, the narrator learns "how to love, choose, and commit on his own terms."
IFSGWIS is a seemingly inconsequential book, but that's not to say I didn't like it. It shows what happens when a man loses everything and has to figure out what he wants and what's good for him. Told in modern times with flashbacks interjected, we see how the narrator got to where he was and where he might be going next. The dialogue is fast, funny, conversational and incredibly crude. It felt like I was spying on a conversation two guys were having when they were sure no women were around. Nothing was held back.
As much as I didn't want to like the narrator, I did and I'm sure it's because of Pernice's excellent writing. He was honest, was what was so endearing about him. With music being as central of a character as the narrator, the book is remniscent of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, which isn't surprising considering Pernice is quite the musician himself. Using his musical prowess, a CD will be released in conjunction with the book. According to Pernice, "Though the book is not explicitly about music, there are quite a few cover and fictional songs mentioned, so I thought it would be a cool idea for me to record some of those songs and release them, as a soundtrack album to the novel." How neat is that?
There were certain things that I really enjoyed about the book. I liked the narrator's strange relationship with Marie and how nice it was in contrast to his tumultuous one with Joclyn. Similarly, I loved the scenes with him and his nephew - they show hope for this Everyman. One scene, insignificant to the plot, cracked me up. Ricky, the narrator's former roommate, suggests that he'd look terrific with a Hitler mustache, but it's a shame that he can't grow one due to the stigma attached. "What is the point is why can't I, a decent, semi-law-abiding citizen wear a Hitler?" complains Ricky. He then goes on to compare that mustache to Stalin's, which is generally considered okay to grow (see: Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck). Horrible, yes. Hilarious? Definitely.
I'd like to think Pernice took some inspiration from the 15th century play Everyman, and not just in regards to the character's lack of name. The play was considered a morality play, one that had the viewers take a look and their lives and see what good they've done. In a way, I think this book proposed the same question. The flashbacks are a way for the narrator to reflect.
The book was overall really good, one I seem to like the more I think about it. It's witty, fast and fresh. It doesn't have a concrete ending, it doesn't propose a huge cathartic moment, but I think that was the point. Not everyone goes through a change - but hopefully everyone does learn something as they grow up.