All the Wrong Men One Perfect Boy: A Memoir
by Spike Gillespie
Simon & Schuster, $23 hard
"Confusing ... nakedness with love," Spike Gillespie has pretended in her past to be a "guilt-free, take-no-prisoners sex machine." She delivers honesty -- "balls-out honest at all times" is how she describes it -- in short spurts throughout All the Wrong Men and One Perfect Boy. She categorizes the letters she wrote to one of the many lovers who pop up in this dizzying memoir as "downright pornographic." Another potential paramour "guaranteed, on the first date, that he was going to leave me. The challenge made him irresistible." She has a "freaky father," an intractable pro-lifer who has never really offered the author any affection. Plus, she decided to marry someone after having corresponded with him online for six weeks; she first met him in person just two days before the wedding.
It's tempting to recommend All the Wrong Men as a foray into life's more carnivalesque elements, but it's paced at a rate that makes it difficult for the reader to grasp on to any striking characterization of the book. A memoir that means to be truly carnivalesque, to really get down and dirty, must display some degree of revelry -- and then later, perhaps, regret -- at one's misdeeds. In this book, there are plenty of misdeeds but none is explored fully enough to really impart the moment. We're on to the next misdeed before we have time to ponder the previous ones.
Spike has her father, though. A good deal of her memoir is spent sifting through the detritus of memories this man -- depicted as an austere monster with very occasional good days -- has bestowed upon his daughter, and his presence is the most memorable aspect of the book. Spike travels throughout most of All the Wrong Men and though her parents remain firmly planted in New Jersey, where Spike grew up, memories of her father and his stern control haunt her like the Furies, those vicious agents of revenge in ancient tragedy who hounded victims until they died from madness. It's clear from Spike's portrait of her father that she has the ability to draw us into her story; a reader can't help but think that if there wasn't a need to cover so much in All the Wrong Men and One Perfect Boy, that the entire book might read as effectively as that depiction. --Clay Smith