Poole, Eric. Excuse Me While I Slip into Someone More Comfortable. RosettaBooks. 2018. $24.99. 256p. HC. 978-1948122047.
In his second memoir, advertising executive Eric Poole explores his high-school and early professional life. Desperately seeking a route out of his staid, stolid St. Louis upbringing, young Eric tries on a variety of personas, each adapted in part from the pop culture idols that permeated the USA in the late 1970s. Will he end up on Broadway, plucked out of obscurity a la Shirley MacLaine, or storm into the New York fashion scene? Eventually, he discovers a talent for writing that propels him out of St. Louis – and the closet.
Like the kitsch figures which inspire his childhood transformations, there is a veneer of artificiality to the prose that keeps readers from getting to know the author on more than a surface level. Events that must have been traumatic to a young man discovering his sexuality in the late ‘70s are transformed into wacky misadventures in the retelling. Poole has a strong comic voice, but that often comes at the expense of emotional impact, as the reader is always held at arm’s length. The back-cover reviews compare Poole to essayists like Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris. This is not a comparison that favors Excuse Me While I Slip into Someone More Comfortable; it’s too frothy next to Burroughs, while not funny enough to stand with Sedaris.
The publisher didn’t seem to know who to market this book towards – on my review copy, one demographic to be targeted was “Millennials,” but the sheer volume of late 1970’s fringe references are sure to bore and confuse most readers under the age of 35. Barry Manilow, Tommy Tune, Halston – these are not figures whose cultural dominion has penetrated to younger generations.
Excuse Me While I Slip into Someone More Comfortable is recommended to readers of Generation X and older, who have finished everything by Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, and are looking for a light, inoffensive read.