Tonight and tomorrow, brothers Davy & Peter Rothbart are bringing their 10th annual FOUND Magazine Tour to Portland. Called "utterly engaging performers" by the Los Angeles Times, the brothers will present a combination of the lost voyeuristic materials that fills the magazine with Peter's music that it's inspired, first tonight at Powell's at 7:30 and tomorrow at Holocene at 7:30, along with readings from Davy's new book. Intern Meghan Morawski has this book review:
Davy Rothbart’s new collection of personal essays, My Heart Is an Idiot, isn’t just a clever name. From leaving love notes for girls he just met to cheating on a girlfriend he describes as his “beautiful, talented, kindhearted girlfriend,” the Found Magazine creator and frequent contributor on public radio’s This American Life has put himself through a slew of unfortunate romantic entanglements, all of which he lays out for the world’s schadenfreude. At times you hope that things work out for him, but at other points, you can’t help but be shocked by how poorly he treats people and mangles his relationships—and then how humorously and honestly he writes about it.
For example, in “Shade,” Rothbart believes he has found a real-life version of a movie character he is infatuated with. Like Shade, Sarah is sweet, smart, and determined, despite a less than perfect life. The two connect over the phone following an interview Sarah conducts for a school publication. After a couple of months and numerous declarations of love, Rothbart travels to Arizona, only to find Sarah much less physically attractive than he had imagined. He proceeds to flirt with Sarah’s best friend, fall in “love” with a girl behind the counter at a Subway where he and Sarah go to eat (even leaving a passionate note on the door later, denying he and Sarah were dating when they went in to eat together), and inevitably cut short a road trip they had planned for ages with a lie about getting back together with a girlfriend back home.
Though events like this may easily turn readers off, the self-deprecating train wrecks are also one of the qualities that will make you want to keep reading. Rothbart doesn’t put up any facades; he simply lays out his thoughts and actions, malignancies and all, fully admitting that things he’s done are terrible. Although that didn’t always atone for how I felt during certain stories, it at least lessened the unavoidable judgments.
Not to say all of the stories are about emotional bruising. Many are extraordinary and heartwarming, such as one about a trip he takes to New York on Valentine’s to surprise a girl he has fallen in love with after a quickie make-out session and several months of heartfelt letters. Once he gets to the city, he ends up spending a rather captivating evening getting a taste of the lives of four different families, all from different cultural, racial, and ideological backgrounds.
Rothbart’s writing style is fitting for a man who’s made his name unearthing forgotten minutiae: no detail gets left behind. While such obsessive attention makes some essays feel a bit longer and more tedious than necessary, overall it strengthens his narratives. The cinematic detail sweeps you into his stories, wrapping you up in the emotions of the characters.
Though not always sympathetic, Rothbart’s stories are nonetheless captivating, outlandish, and hilarious, serving as the kind of tales you’d love to listen to from a stranger in a dive bar, if not actually want to live yourself.