Just after I completed college, a friend attempted to introduce me to ‘Bored to Death,’ an HBO series starring Jason Schwartzman. I just couldn’t get into it- a whiny lead and his misfit friends, a 60-something ‘New Yorker’ editor and pot-addict, Ted Danson, and a lazy, self-depreciating cartoonist, Zach Galifaikis. Several years later, I saw the series on Amazon Prime and revisited to give it another try. It hit me, surprisingly, and I binged through all three seasons in about a week. I’ve watched it all the way through again since then.
I was pleased to find a book authored by the same writer of the series at a thrift store earlier this year. In my mind, Schwartzman played the lead again, along with all the eccentricities that were included. Written as a first-person narrative, the book ‘Wake Up, Sir!’ is a week long adventure that explores the hero’s struggles with alcoholism. Alan Blaine is the lead. He’s working on a novel that explains his odd relationship with his former roommate, an older man who escorts rich old widows in NYC. Blaine is thirty years old, orphaned, and living with his aunt and uncle and Montclaire, New Jersey. He has an affinity for sports jackets and wine. Recently, Blaine had won a lawsuit after slipping on ice and put the money to good use, hiring a valet named Jeeves (a nice nod to the Wodenhouse character). The novelist’s first book was met with mediocre success, and he has his sights on making a bigger splash with his second work. Tired of avoiding his NRA-card-carrying uncle, Blaine decides to bring Jeeves to upstate NY and spend time writing in a Hasidic community, Sharon Springs. The aunt and uncle were in agreement, and casually mentioned that they had planned on asking him to leave due to his excessive drinking. On the way, he called to check in with his aunt, but his uncle told him an artist colony Blaine had applied to had accepted him. With changing plans, Blaine made a shorter visit to Sharon Springs. The hotel he planned to stay in had a massive fire, but Blaine charmed his way into an undamaged double room where Jeeves could join him. A curiousity had overcome him while calling his uncle and he returned to the phone booth in a drunken state later that night to call ‘Debbie,’ the name from a hand written advertisement that stated she likes her have her ‘kitten’ kissed, along with a phone number. Well, Debbie showed up, with her boyfriend. The boyfriend was a giant of a man, referred to as ‘Hill’. Hill beat up on Blaine and broke his nose, but then Blaine kicked Hill’s knee and punched him in the ear, dropping him and allowing for a brisk escape for the hero. The next day, Blaine and Jeeves showed up to the Rose Colony with two black eyes and a broken nose. This appearance intrigued the fellow guests and he quickly made friends, and enemies. Though Blaine swore off alcohol after the violent episode, he continued to indulge nightly as it was practically a ritual with the artists at the Rose Colony. Each night brought further escalating malady, until Blaine found himself in the biggest scandal of the colony’s history.
This was a fun read, the main character posed many interesting questions in his thoughts: Why are Jews always persecuted? Why are the Hebrews in so much popular media, but in so few numbers; what if roles were reversed with the Chinese? What do you call the erotic infatuation with another human’s nose?
I hope to someday find another book by Ames in the future, but until then, Bored To Death will be on queue.