I Love You More Than You Know
By Jonathan Ames (Black Cat) Ames will appear at Powell’s City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, Fri Feb 10, 7:30 pm

Jonathan Ames is a very funny dude with some great autobiographical stories and an easy-going, conversational writing style. So his new book of essays, I Love You More Than You Know, should be great, right? Well, not quite. But is "good" good enough?

ILYMTYN is the kind of book that you can polish off on a long plane ride or a few consecutive nights in bed. It's comprised of quick, Sedaris-y essays that range from really fucking funny ("No Contact, Asshole") to head-scratchingly sentimental and filler-ish (the title essay is about how awesome his great-aunt Doris is). They're what Steve Martin describes as "after-dinner mints to the big meal of literature," which is a perfectly fine thing to be. It just begs the question—are they special, gourmet, Harry and David-style mints, or the melting five-cent Andes sitting by the Night Hawk's cash register? By my taste buds, ILYMTYN is a tin of three-dollar Trader Joe's breath fresheners.

When Ames is on, he's on. He's a self-described straight man with a penchant for transsexuals and a once-upon-a-time taste for French prostitutes. He's bold enough to share some of his better stories with us, where many writers would have stuffed the memories deep into the skeleton closet. "No Contact, Asshole," finds Ames as a 26-year-old single dad, lost in life, and spending the summer with his parents in rural New Jersey. He spots an ad in the local paper for a dominatrix with a transsexual assistant, and arranges an initial meeting at the neighborhood T.G.I. Friday's. Instead of spending the afternoon writing at the library, like he told his parents, he ends up taking a hummer from the tranny while his four-year-old son splashes away at swimming lessons a few miles down the road. The story is alternately hilarious and melancholy, as he tries to cope with his actions and guilt.

Unfortunately, about one third of ILYMTYN is total filler. But when a book only asks for about four hours of your time, and makes you chuckle with some consistency, how indignant can you really get when it's not perfect from beginning to end?