The Double Life Is Twice as Good: Essays and Fiction

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9781439102336: The Double Life Is Twice as Good: Essays and Fiction
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Wildly original novelist, essayist, and performance artist Jonathan Aames delivers his best collection yet—a hilarious, risqué, and loveable selection of articles, essays, and fiction, including several previously unpublished pieces.With an HBO pilot based on this collection’s centerpiece (“Bored to Death”), his two hilarious novels, The Extra Man and Wake Up, Sir!, in development as films (with screenplays by Mr. Ames), a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Alcoholic, under his belt, and an ongoing series of literary and not-so-literary stunts, Jonathan Ames has proven himself to be a writer of diverse and stunning talents.

In The Double Life Is Twice as Good, fans will be treated to a deft and charming compilation of Ames’s journalism, personal essays, and short fiction. Featuring illuminating profiles of Marilyn Manson and Lenny Kravitz, his adventures at a goth festival in the Midwest, a story written for Esquire on a napkin, as well as a comic strip collaboration with graphic artist Nick Bertozzi, Ames’s unique style and personality-driven humor shines throughout this wickedly funny collection. Also included is the aforementioned short story, “Bored to Death,” a Raymond Chandler–esque tale about a struggling writer-turned-detective who becomes quickly embroiled in the search for a missing college co-ed. Described by The Portland Oregonian as “an edgier David Sedaris,” it’s no wonder that this comic mastermind’s already fervent and dedicated fanbase is continually growing.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Ames is also the author of I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, What’s Not to Love?, My Less Than Secret Life, Wake Up, Sir!, I Love You More Than You Know, and The Alcoholic. He is the editor of Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs and is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has had two amateur box- ing matches, fighting as “The Herring Wonder” and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The trouble happened because I was bored. At the time, I was twenty-eight days sober. I was spending my nights playing Internet backgammon. I should have been going to AA meetings, but I wasn't.

I had been going to AA meetings for twenty years, ever since college. I like AA meetings. My problem is that I'm a periodic alcoholic, even with going to AA. Every few years, I try drinking again. Or, rather, drinking tries me. It tries me on for size and finds out I don't fit and throws me to the ground. And so I go crawling back to AA. Or at least I should. This last go-round, I was skipping meetings and just staying home and, like I said, playing Internet backgammon.

I was also reading a lot of crime fiction and private detective fiction, writers like Hammett, Goodis, Chandler, Thompson. The usual suspects, as it were. Since my own life was so dull, I needed the charge that came from their books -- the danger, the violence, the despair.

So that's all I was doing -- reading and playing backgammon. I can afford such a lifestyle because I'm a writer. I'm not a hugely successful writer, but I'm my own boss. I've written six books -- three novels and three essay collections -- and at the time of the trouble I had roughly six thousand dollars in the bank, which is a lot for me. I also had a few checks for movie work coming in down the road.

By my economic standards it was a flush time. I had even paid my taxes early, at the end of March -- it was now mid-April -- and I was just trying to stay sober and keep a low profile in my own little life. I wasn't doing any writing, because, well, I didn't have anything to say.

Overall, I was being pretty reclusive. I only talked to a few people, primarily my parents, who are retired and live in Florida and who call me every day. They're a bit needy, my senior citizen parents, but I don't mind, life is short, so if I can give them a little solace with a daily call, what the hell. My father is eighty-two and my mother is seventy-five. I have to love them now as best I can. And the only other two people I really spoke to were the two close friends I have, one who lives here in New York and the other who's in Los Angeles. I have a lot of acquaintances, but I've never had a lot of friends.

One night a week, I did leave the apartment to go see this girl. It was nice. I guess you could say that she was a friend, too, but I've never really thought of the women in my life as friends, which must be a flaw. Her name was Marie and we would have dinner, maybe go to a movie, and then we'd get into bed at her place, never my place, and the sex with her was good. But it wasn't anything serious. She was twenty-six and I'm forty-two, and I retired from being serious with women a few years ago. Somebody always got hurt, usually the girl, and I couldn't take it anymore.

Well, I'll shut up now about all this. It's not my drinking problem or my finances or my dead love life that I want to talk about. I only mention all this as some kind of way to explain why I had too much free time on my hands, because what's really on my mind is this trouble I got into because, as I said, I was bored. Bored with backgammon and bored with reading and bored with being sober and bored with myself and bored with being alive.

I should make it clear that I wasn't at all bored by the books I was tearing through and loving, but bored by the fact that I wasn't actually doing anything, just reading, though it was, in fact, Hammett and Goodis and Chandler and Thompson who sort of provoked me to take action, and it's when I took action, because of those authors' books, that I blew up my life.

It was a fantasy, a crazed notion, but I got it into my head that I wanted to play at being a private detective. I wanted to help somebody. I wanted to be brave. I wanted to have an adventure. And it's pathetic, but what did I do? I put an ad on craigslist in the "services" section under "legal." It read as follows:

Private Detective for Hire

Reply to: serv-261446940@craigslist.org

Date: 2007-04-13, 8:31AM EST

Specializing: Missing Persons, Domestic Issues. I'm not licensed, but maybe I'm someone who can help you. My fee is reasonable. Call 347-555-1042

There were two other private-detective ads on craigslist and they offered all sorts of help -- surveillance, undercover work, background checks, video and still photography, business investigations, missing persons, domestic issues, and two things that I didn't quite grasp -- "skip tracing" and "witness locates."

I figured the only thing I could help with was trying to find someone or maybe following someone, which would most likely be a "domestic issue" -- an unfaithful spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend. I didn't have any qualms about that, following an unfaithful lover, though in all the private-detective fiction I've read the heroes never do "marriage work," as if it's beneath them, but I thought it would be fun to follow somebody and to do so for the purposes of a real mission. Sometimes, probably because I want everything to be like it is in a book or a movie, I have followed people on the streets of New York, pretending I was a detective or a spy.

I did try to cover myself legally by writing in my ad that I wasn't licensed. I don't know who does license private detectives, but I figured it was a difficult process and, anyway, I just wanted to put the ad up, mostly as a lark, a playing-out of a dream, like when I would shadow people on the streets. But I really didn't think anybody would actually call me -- I was offering far fewer services than the other private detectives and I was acknowledging in the ad that I wasn't exactly a professional.

If somebody did call, then I figured after talking to me they would try somebody more reputable, but whatever came of it, even if nobody called, I thought it might be something I could write about, a comedic essay -- "My Failed Attempt at Being a Private Detective." Often during my writing career, mostly for my essays, I've put myself in weird positions and then milked it for humor. This situation would be like the time I tried to go to an orgy but wasn't allowed in. Even when nothing happens, you can sometimes make a good story out of it.

Anyway, I got a thrill at posting the ad, but it was a short-lived thrill. For the first day, I would go and look at my ad, admiring my own handiwork, laughing to myself, wondering if something might happen, almost as if I checked it out enough times, other people would. But then, after about a day, the thrill wore off. It was one more ridiculous thing in a ridiculous life, and, of course, no one called.

So I went back to the usual routine -- I started a David Goodis novel, Black Friday, and once again I was spending hours playing backgammon. Then on Thursday, April 19, when I was in the midst of a good game, my cell phone rang around four o'clock in the afternoon. The number had an area code I couldn't immediately place -- 215. I answered the phone and kept on playing.

"Hello?" I said.

"I saw your ad," said a girl's voice.

"What? What ad?" I said. I had forgotten completely about my craigslist posting. It had been six days.

"Craigslist? Missing persons?"

"Yes, of course, I'm sorry," I said, quickly rallying, remembering my little experiment. "I was distracted. I'm sorry. And most of my clients are word-of-mouth, so I forgot about my ad on craigslist. How can I help you?"

Right away, I was trying to sound professional, and the lie about the other clients just came to me naturally. I've always been a good liar.

"It's about my sister..." she started to say, then hesitated, and I glanced at my laptop, at the game. If I resigned, which is the same thing as losing and at the moment I was ahead, my ranking would go down, and I hate for my ranking to go down. I've worked very hard to get it to the second-highest level. I was momentarily conflicted, but I clicked a button and resigned from the game so that I could give my full attention to this other game, this one with the young-sounding girl on the phone.

"Your sister?" I said, prompting her.

"Well, I came in from Philadelphia this morning" -- she started slow and then her speech came fast, real fast, the way young girls talk -- "and we're supposed to go to a show tonight. I know it's weird but we got tickets to Beauty and the Beast, we saw it when we were really young and loved it and now it's closing, so that's why we want to see it, but she didn't answer her phone all day yesterday or this morning, but I came in anyway, it was our plan, I figured she's just not picking up or it's not charged, she always forgets to charge her phone, but she's still not answering and now her voice mail is full, and no one at her dorm has seen her for a while and the guard let me in, but she's not in her room, the door is locked, she has a single, and I don't want to call my parents and freak them out, but I have a weird feeling, she's got this sleazy boyfriend, and I don't know what to do, and I'm at this Internet café and I always use craigslist for everything, so I typed in 'missing persons' and found you."

This was a lot to digest. I tried to break it down.

"Your sister lives in a dorm? Where?"

"Twelfth Street and Third Avenue. It's an NYU dorm."

"And where are you?" I asked.

"This café. On Second Avenue. I don't know the cross street, let me look out the window...Third Street."

"What's your name?"

"Rachel."

"Last name?"

"Weiss."

"Your sister's name?"

"Lisa...Weiss."

"And I'm Jonathan...Spencer, by the way...You can call me Jonathan. And you live in Philadelphia?" The lies were coming fast and easy. Spencer was my strange middle name. I'm Jewish but my parents loaded me up with a WASP assembly of names, Jonathan Spencer Ames.

"Yeah, I go to Temple," she said. "I'm a freshman."

"What year is your sister?"

"Junior."

"And where are your parents?"

"Maryland...Can you hel...

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Book Description Scribner Book Company, United States, 2009. Paperback. Condition: New. Original. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Wildly original novelist, essayist, and performance artist Jonathan Aames delivers his best collection yet--a hilarious, risque, and loveable selection of articles, essays, and fiction, including several previously unpublished pieces.With an HBO pilot based on this collection s centerpiece ( Bored to Death ), his two hilarious novels, The Extra Man and Wake Up, Sir!, in development as films (with screenplays by Mr. Ames), a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Alcoholic, under his belt, and an ongoing series of literary and not-so-literary stunts, Jonathan Ames has proven himself to be a writer of diverse and stunning talents. In The Double Life Is Twice as Good, fans will be treated to a deft and charming compilation of Ames s journalism, personal essays, and short fiction. Featuring illuminating profiles of Marilyn Manson and Lenny Kravitz, his adventures at a goth festival in the Midwest, a story written for Esquire on a napkin, as well as a comic strip collaboration with graphic artist Nick Bertozzi, Ames s unique style and personality-driven humor shines throughout this wickedly funny collection. Also included is the aforementioned short story, Bored to Death, a Raymond Chandler-esque tale about a struggling writer-turned-detective who becomes quickly embroiled in the search for a missing college co-ed. Described by The Portland Oregonian as an edgier David Sedaris, it s no wonder that this comic mastermind s already fervent and dedicated fanbase is continually growing. Seller Inventory # BZV9781439102336

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