4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Sophomoric Philosophy is a highly deceiving little novel. The title and design reminds you of something you might find on the cover of a college textbook, doesn't it?
Funny story... During the Little League Opening Day Ceremony, I stood out in the field holding this book, watching my kids getting their team photos taken and I was asked by the photographer what I was reading. Holding the book out to her, I said "Sophomoric Philosophy". She nodded and said, "Are you a student, then?", and I said, "Uhm...no. It's independent literary fiction." - I suppose you had to be there....
Though it is fictional, it very much reads like non-fiction, and for good reason, as it draws heavily on author Victor David Giron's actual life experiences. Giron wanted to write about the things he knew best - being a first generation Mexican-American growing up in Chicago surrounded and influenced by the music, movie, and drug trends of the 80's and 90's - without being held strictly to the facts. (Which is similar to the way Jessica Anya Blau and Michael Kimball approached their latest novels, Drinking Closer to Home and Us, respectively.)
The book is essentially the fictionalized autobiography of Alex Lopez, an accidental 30-something year old accountant who looks back on his teenage years as possibly the best years of his life. He tells his life story out of order, in a series of short chapters as the moods or memories hit him, pondering deep and meaningful things that he feels childish speaking out loud about now - things like God and religion, the universe, life and death.
He reminisces over all the lost loves and missed opportunities he's had, dissecting specific moments from his past over and over again from different angles. He is a constant worrier and noticeably sweats when he get nervous. He is awkward and honest and painfully complicated when he doesn't need to be. He is hyper-aware of his inability to fit in socially and hides from it under the cover of some really awesome music.
Giron practically wrote me into a 1990's coma with all his references to the music and fashion statements of those times. Bands like R.E.M., The Cure, Front 242, Ministry, and The Pixies who were forced to give way to grunge rock trend setters like Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana.. Horrid clothing like Z.Cavaricci's and french cuffed jeans giving way to the open flannel shirts, baggy jeans, and converse sneakers. It was like he had somehow been spying on me during my high school years. He was speaking about my generation! Those were my memories he was writing about..!
Filled with a lifetime worth of drug use, sex, partying, and havoc-wreaking, Sophomoric Philosophy is going to speak loudest to those of us who have reluctantly given up our 20's and firmly refuse to stare our rapidly approaching 40's in the eye. Giron is not afraid to make his narrator look like an asshole, openly admits his fear of making the first move on the fairer sex, and dispels the whole opposite-sex-being-friends myth by exposing it for what it really is.
What? You think I am going to give everything away? Do yourself a favor, my fellow GenXers, and purchase yourself a copy of this novel. While you are placing your order through it's publisher - Curbside Splendor - please check out this teeny tiny little excerpt - and take a peek at it's trailer:
Many many thanks to our good buddy Ben Tanzer, for turning my head and pointing it in the direction of this book and it's author. Many many thanks to it's author-slash-co-founder-of-Curbside-Publishing for making the review copy available to me.