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Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: A Memoir Hardcover – June 2, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; First Edition edition (June 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565124650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565124653
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.7 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,840,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goodwillie's chronicle of his New York days and nights in the exuberant years of the late 1990s can be accurately characterized by its own title. A 1995 graduate of Kenyon College, the author failed at a Cincinnati Reds tryout, then went East for the big city's bright lights (comparisons to Jay McInerney's 1985 classic are unavoidable). During his days, Goodwillie changed jobs—private investigator, copywriter, journalist, sports expert—the way free agents change teams; by night, he swung with the best of them whatever the venue, whatever the side: neocon right or Clintonian left; Upper West or Lower East. The author wisely depicts himself as ironist naïf, and he exuberantly relates episode after episode. However, the matters of his steady job, housing and relationships (or lack thereof) never quite cohere into memorable drama. Still, finely wrought details anchor the story in time and place, and perhaps the work's lack of moral weight is the truest mark of the decade it portrays. Goodwillie has written a frenetic picaresque with little soul but lots of rhythm. (June 2)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–When the author graduated from college, he tried out for the Cincinnati Reds. He failed to make the team, so he took what was to him the next logical step: he moved to New York City to become a writer. This memoir details the sometimes unsettling, frequently hilarious events in between. Goodwillie first worked as a private investigator and then as a copywriter for a sports auction house, which led to a prestigious job at Sotheby's organizing and then auctioning a huge private baseball-memorabilia collection. The second half of the 1990s saw the rise of the dot-coms, and, though Goodwillie was reasonably happy and earning a steady and adequate paycheck, he was seduced by the glitz, mad creativity, and possibility of instant wealth of the Internet start-ups. He worked for a series of these companies, all of which failed to flourish. His personal relationships also lacked commitment, and it wasn't until the horrifying events of September 11th that he began to reflect on the direction his life was taking. After six years of gathering material, he finally decided to write. Goodwillie's pre-9/11 New York was a city of exuberance and seemingly endless possibility. This picaresque tale also tells of lean times between jobs, run-down apartments, nightlife, and superficial relationships. Short on analysis but with plenty of fresh experience, it provides a detailed view of life in the recent past.–Susanne Bardelson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

David Goodwillie is the author of the acclaimed novel AMERICAN SUBVERSIVE (Scribner). Hailed as "genuinely thrilling" by The New Yorker, and "a triumphant work of fiction" by the AP, it was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010, and a Vanity Fair and Publisher's Weekly top ten Spring debut. He is also the author of the memoir SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA AT THE TIME (Algonquin), for which he was named one of the "Best New Writers of 2006″ by members of the PEN American Center. Goodwillie writes about books for The New York Times and The Daily Beast, and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers, including New York, Popular Science, Men's Health, Black Book, The New York Observer, and The New York Post. He has played professional baseball, worked as a private investigator, and been an expert at Sotheby's auction house. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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I expected to pick this book up, read a few pages, and abandon it.
D. Carr
The result, "Seems Like a Good Idea At the Time" is his honest and beautiful first contribution to the literary world.
book.of.the.moment
David, thanks for the memories; yours and mine, the good and the bad.
Nicholas Tyner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By L. B. Hughes on June 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
David Goodwillie's memoir of life in New York City after college is the perfect read for anyone aged 21, 51, or 81 that doesn't know what they want to do when they grow up but truly loves trying to figure it out. Reading David's book, which is chock full of episodes that are at once poignant and humorous, took me back to a time in my own life after college when the world was less about the daily grind and more about exploring and experiencing what's out there. My favorite authors have always been the ones who take me by the hand and invite me into their world, and Goodwillie is a truly inviting and engaging host. Thanks for the trip, David, and keep on writing!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Lifson on June 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. I couldn't put it down and I read it in two days. There was a TV show years ago called "Time Tunnel" where characters were sent back in time to a specific time and place in history. This book reminds me a little of that show, with David Goodwille the character who has been "beamed" into a time and place to navigate the cultural landscape. The time is the 1990s. The place is New York. Only this is not fiction - this is real. You love this book if you have any interest in the world of baseball collectibles or big time auctions. You will also love this book if you have even a passing interest in the cultural changes of the 1990s and the "dot-com" boom. And you will love this book if you have any interest in laughing - because this is a VERY funny book. It is also a book that has many other dimensions. I remember reading a commentary regarding recorded history that noted that ancient history was easy to appreciate. It's in books, it's taught in schools, and everyone sort of agrees about so much of the distant past, which has little to do with our day-to-day lives. "Future history" that is current news - all that goes on around us today in real time - is readily available to us by TV reporting, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, etc. We see it and we live it. But the recent past - that is different. That is our blind spot, and the significance and context of relatively recent history can often be lost. A talented and perceptive writer can sometimes hit the mark and bring this recent history into focus, and David Goodwillie has done just that, using his own life experiences as a vehicle. This book is a treat. At different times it reminded me of "Catch Me If You Can," "Wall Street," and "How To Succeed In Business," and at other times it was more like "Seinfeld." It is time capsule of the 1990s, a great read - and VERY funny!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By book.of.the.moment on August 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Goodwillie's memoir is one of the better ones I've read. It's more than just a memoir..its a struggle to find meaning and authenticity in a mundane world. The story is that of his struggle to become a writer. Of his successes and failures, his loves and losses..of his screw ups and sell outs. All are told in a way that makes Goodwillie seem endearing and naive to a reader.

We follow Goodwillie through 1990's New York City; through various jobs, lifestyles and girlfriends. We stay with him as he makes bad calls and learns valuable life lessons. After six years of molding himself to fit with current trends and putting his dreams on hold, Goodwillie succeeds in fulfilling his lifelong dream of writing. The result, "Seems Like a Good Idea At the Time" is his honest and beautiful first contribution to the literary world.

Two thumbs way up. If you enjoy memoirs, check this one out.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Susan Crane on June 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I can't say enough good things about this book. Goodwillie is a massively talented writer, and his ability to expertly distill the energy and pitch of New York in the late 90s is astounding. This is the first book I've read that attempts to make some sense of that era -- when kids just out of college were earning more than their parents and it seemed like the good times really never would end -- and it does a magnificent job. I moved to New York about a year after Goodwillie did, and while I can't claim to have held the same variety of exciting jobs he did, I found a number parallels between our New York experiences, and it's a testament to Goodwillie's abilities as a writer that I think the same will be true of anyone (of any age) who's ever dreamed of making it in the big city -- in any big city.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Tyner on August 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent look at the challenges and uncertainties and opportunities and longing that make being 20-something so interesting and painful and exciting. By examining many of the questions that are universal to that age, this memoir has brought me back to that era of my life.

David, thanks for the memories; yours and mine, the good and the bad.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on July 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Experience is what makes great writers, but not the kind gathered from classrooms or the great indoors. Oh, and sometimes that experience gets in the way of writing. "Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time" chronicles its author's leap from a small college in Ohio to the metropolitan lightning rod of New York City, and the odd jobs and mistakes amassed along the way. He has an unnerving knack for capturing characters: these are the same people I encounter every day, but he made me see them as if for the first time. The story is the coming-of-age of a city as much as it is the coming-of-age of its author. It's a memoir of an imperfect, work-in-progress life, but underneath the calculated cleverness and snappy comebacks is a love song to the past, the present, and the unfurling future of NYC, center of the universe. It's pretty solid proof that with enough work, life sometimes lets itself be written down. Plus, it's not a bad piece of writing. Definitely worth it. Now I want to move to NYC.
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