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Substitute Dr. Dre for Charlie Parker, and Davy Rothbart’s new collection of 16 essays—the brilliantly titled My Heart Is an Idiot—reads like early Jack Kerouac. The FOUND Magazine creator and frequent This American Life contributor is boozily looking for love in all the wrong places, as he hitchhikes, sleeps on couches in cities across America, dreams of becoming a writer and romanticizes everything in sight.
In “Human Snowball,” the author takes a bus from Detroit to Buffalo to surprise a would-be girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, only to become entangled in a stranger-than-fiction odyssey that includes a car thief, a 110-year-old man and a bewildered Chinese family. “Shade” reveals a lifelong obsession with Fairuza Balk’s character in indie pic Gas, Food Lodging, of all things, and the comically sad litany of relationships that this fevered devotion has sabotaged.
Though the bulk of Rothbart’s pieces are intoxicatingly quick and funny, a pair of essays in the latter half of the book add some weight to the collection. One of the two, “New York, New York,” is a powerful and unpretentious post-9/11 remembrance that includes the memorable firsthand stories of nearly everyone he meets on a winding bus trip to the city. But the book ends up back on the road with a dreamy, romantic tale in which Rothbart finally manages to meet a girl and not completely screw everything up. It’s a satisfying end to a brutally honest, heartfelt and clever collection that rarely misses a beat in its unheroic remembrances of things past.