A/N: Gosh, how long has it been? Forever, I know. Law school has pushed all other activities out of my world. But this came to me tonight, and I had to write it down. Hopefully someone out there will read it. Love you guys!
The One That Got Away
The New York Times Book Review
February 15, 2009
"Literature's Most Eligible Bachelor Writes About the One That Got Away"
By: Genevieve Miller
When Jess Mariano broke onto the book scene in 2007 after the second printing of his cult hit The Subsect, he was consistently praised for his bitter honesty, scathing sarcasm, and biting humor. All three are alive and more present than ever in his new collection of essays Unspoken Vices: The Habits You Grow Out Of and the Ones You Wish You Could. Along with the cutting observation and wit that has made him the darling of disaffected teenagers and twentysomethings everywhere, Jess has added something new to the mix: a glimpse into his personal life.
Little is known about the author before his debut novel exploded onto the scene, worn copies of the paperback book passing hands throughout the underground in Philadelphia until it finally generated enough buzz for Pendleton Publishing to reprint it. His easy, carefree charm and dark good looks won him many fans on the tour for his second novel, Waiting for What?, which was published in May of 2008. But Jess always chooses to keep it professional, hardly ever fielding questions about how he got to where he is.
Unspoken Vices finally breaks the author's self-imposed silence. "I figured 'What the Hell?'" Jess says about the book. "I've been through a lot, and a lot of it has been really funny. I was ignoring all this material that I had lived through."
And material he got. The essays range from hilarious to evocative, unbelievable to almost heartbreaking. It isn't hard to imagine the quiet author, who showed up to the interview in ripped jeans, a worn-in t-shirt with The Clash emblazoned on it, and a blazer with frayed cuffs, as a monosyllabic, rebellious teenager. Jess writes about being kicked out of his New York home as a, living with an uncle he hardly knew before moving in with his estranged father in California, sharing a studio apartment with two other struggling writers in Philadelphia, a conversation with a porn star on an airplane, and, perhaps the most shockingly personal, the heartbreak that led to the penning of The Subsect.
"It's a good story." Jess says with a shrug, when asked about that essay, entitled "Write Me an Epic." "I finally figured out I needed to stop running from the past, from her. And when I started writing it all down, I realized it wasn't as bad as I'd thought. Some of it was even funny, looking back on it." A passage involving a vicious swan, for example, adds notable levity to the poignant essay.
When pressed for more details, the writer's signature smirk turns wistful (I don't know how he manages a wistful smirk, but it is definitely part of what makes Jess Mariano such a hot item among the literary scene.) "She knows who she is," he says mysteriously. "No one else needs to know." Jess is true to that in his book, pointing out that names have been changed and barely describing his former love's physical attributes at all. The only hint he gives in the book is that "her cerulean eyes were so potent that they could sparkle and smolder at the same time."
He does admit freely, however, that she was the inspiration behind The Subsect. "I couldn't have written it without her. She inspired me in a lot of ways. Sometimes I think she still does." He shrugs and adds, "She was—she is frustrating, but all the great muses are, right?" He laughs a little, and I think that wistfulness has travelled up to his hazel eyes a bit.
This collection is worth reading for this glimpse into Jess's personal life alone, but combined with his humor, observation, and subtle life lessons, Unspoken Vices has something for everyone. It will please his diehard fans and most likely win him a score of new admirers at well. As for the one that got away, Jess says, "I don't know if she'll read it. But I hope if she does, she learns something from it. I know I did."
Unspoken Vices: The Habits You Grow Out Of and the Ones You Wish You Could by Jess Mariano received 4 out of 4 stars by our book review panel.