Book Review: A Fool Among Fools

It’s a year in the life of an ad exec in mid-1980s New York. Twenty-nine is a tricky year – you’re too young to be old, but you’re too old to not have accomplished SOMETHING. You have your family, sure, and your relationships with them are good, mostly. You’ve had a boyfriend, but now you’re single. You have a job, but it’s not satisfying you (and you supervisor is certifiably insane). You’ve got friends, and thank God for that. They get you through the days, through the nights, through the ever-present awareness of the virus that has been sweeping through everywhere.

Michael Gregoretti (MG for short) can’t believe he is turning twenty-nine. His job as a secretary turned junior copywriter isn’t getting him anywhere. The play he is writing, about life in an ad agency, isn’t going anywhere. His love life since his ex Tim moved to California to pursue his acting career is definitely not going anywhere. His most immediate problem, though, as he starts his thirtieth year, is summed up in two words: Gwen Hammond, his supervisor at Malcolm & Partners Worldwide. Gwen’s controlling and creatively-dead work is suffocating MG.

While working under her (and buckling under what he sees as her complete incompetence), MG meets the handsome Craig Connolly. Craig and MG hit it off, and although the sex is great, and his intentions seem honorable, Craig’s availability soon has MG questioning if they’re after the same thing.

The author’s time as an advertising copywriter clearly comes through. He captures the frustratingly mindless tedium of a creative person being forced to give ground on every point of every campaign, to satisfy conservative clients who, in MG’s mind, wouldn’t recognize a genuinely creative concept if it bit them on the ass. While sometimes the minutia of the various campaigns MG is working on seem to bog down the plot (even as they are bogging down his life), days in the advertising world are broken up by nights with his friend Irene, his roommate Anthony, and the now-hot, now-cold Craig.

MG is an average gay man, with the campiness, cattiness, self-awareness, and self-doubt that characterizes the species. At times you want to smack him across the face and tell him flat out: if you’re not happy with your life, change it already! Somehow his friends stand by him through the whining and waffling as his job and relationship reach their inevitable conclusions. As he turns thirty, a bit of a deus ex machina ending gives MG the chance to make his life what he wants it to be.

This is John Terracusso’s first novel, and although not perfect, it has moments that stand out: humorous, painful, beautiful. Perhaps the lesson it leaves us with is to seize any birthday as a chance to allow ourselves to be reborn. We may not have control over many things in life, but our happiness is the one thing we can always choose for ourselves.

Submitted By: Rob B. Follow him on Twitter @robbrowatzke

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