Sunday, January 8, 2017

Book Review: How to Ruin Everything

Book Review: How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky 

Goodreads Description: Are you a sensible, universally competent individual? Are you tired of the crushing monotony of leaping gracefully from one lily pad of success to the next? Are you sick of doing everything right? 

In this brutally honest and humorous debut, musician and artist George Watsky chronicles the small triumphs over humiliation that make life bearable and how he has come to accept defeat as necessary to personal progress. The essays in How to Ruin Everything range from the absurd (how he became an international ivory smuggler) to the comical (his middle-school rap battle dominance) to the revelatory (his experiences with epilepsy), yet all are delivered with the type of linguistic dexterity and self-awareness that has won Watsky more than 765,000 YouTube subscribers. Alternately ribald and emotionally resonant, How to Ruin Everything announces a versatile writer with a promising career ahead.

My Review: "Taylor skips by the big rock arches, and a lump rises in my throat like the one Mom can't hide when she talks about her high school boyfriend-- emotion that forty short years can't dull, a tremor that makes me love my mother more because I understand her in those moments, relate to an ache that takes nothing away from our family but illuminates the million different lives each of us could have led if we'd washed up on different shores." 

How to Ruin Everything is a collection of essays written by George Watsky, who has spent over ten years as a spoken word poet and a musician. In this collection, Watsky steps into new territory with essays featuring his life and experiences, and explores how sometimes ruining things causes them to turn out for the best. I was of course drawn to the book as I am a fan of the author's spoken word and his music, and was excited to get a deeper look at his work. 

I'll admit, I haven't read too many essay collections, at least those with essays all written by the same author. The book reads largely as a memoir, as the author reminisces about his life, his experiences, and how they've helped to shape him into who he is. That said, I found the essays thematically unconnected, and were drawn together only because they focused on the same person. It would've been nice to get a bit more to each essay to help bond it back to the theme of ruining everything. Or at least some sort of timeline, as the stories came from all over his life-- and thus it was difficult to tell where in his life and thinking we were at. 

On their own, the essays were quite an enjoyable read. Especially the last several, I found them rather poignant and beautifully written. A poet at heart, Watsky really knows how to bring out the beauty in the mundane. He doesn't embellish the beauty or pain, nor does he understate it. He lays both out plainly, and lets the reader draw their own emotional conclusions. The quality of the writing helps carry the reader through the disjointed timelines and random subjects. The beautiful use of words as well as the clever observations make this book such a joy to read. The style is rambling and introspective, like a poet ran away with a keyboard, and nowhere near a "must read," but it still holds a quiet, special spot on my reading shelf. 

TL;DR: All in all, 3/5 stars. A series of disjointed essays with strength in beautiful writing and poignant observations. 

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