My reason for reading How to Ruin Everything is silly, so silly it is embarrassing to admit, but without it, I would never have read it and that would be a loss. I didn’t know who George Watsky was when I started and now that I finished, I know he is a youngish hip hop poet who has a band. He is not in my cultural landscape as an artist, but he is as an essayist, as a memoirist because even knowing nothing about George Watsky, I enjoyed his book very much.
So why did I pick it up to read? I liked the cover. The humor in the design, the name, it just struck me as something fun to read after a few grim books. I have spent quite a bit of time reading it, just reading one essay at a time and putting it aside to read another book. It’s that kind of book, stories that loosely connect since they are all about Watksy, but are all independent of each other.
Watsky is a storyteller, the old-fashioned story teller who knows that characterization matters. His stories are suited for being read aloud, reading them, I heard an imaginary Watsky voice which is nothing like his real voice, by the way. There is an enhanced edition with lots of video but my kindle cannot play that stuff. It is full of pictures, too, but my kindle is old, and they are completely muddled on the black and grey kindle. I found this excerpt on YouTube to give you a taste. From this, you can hear his expressive language and ability to paint a picture with words. Most of the stories, though, are much funnier. I so loved the story of he and his friend smuggling a present across the border for his friend’s great aunt’s 100th birthday.
I love memoirs, particularly the memoirs that are so much about ordinary life, about the hassles of breaking down buses and inconsiderate, sloppy roommates and rundown rentals. These are people who know there is drama in the ordinariness of life. One of my favorite memoirs of all time is Patricial Hampl’s A Romantic Education about growing up in a happy family, suffering no abuse, bullying or trauma, and going off to school for a good education with teachers who did not torture her and taking a trip to Czechoslovakia without being caught in a terror attack or revolution. It is wonderful.
Watsky is that kind of memoirist, someone who knows that ordinary stories told with extraordinary passion, with strong imagery and characterization, are the best stories there are. I would have liked it better, though, without the idea that I needed to watch some videos to get the whole story. It would be a stronger memoir, I think, if there was a sense of progression and maturation. It is not his purpose, but it would still make a more compete memoir.
- How to Ruin Everything @ Penguin Books