Thursday, March 3, 2016

Book Review: "Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs" by Dave Holmes

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for making it available!

Dave Holmes' Party of One worked for me on so many levels, but mainly because, except for the fact that he was a former VJ on MTV and actually famous, we pretty much lived parallel lives. Pop culture-obsessed? Check. Growing up knowing he was gay but knowing the world wasn't too keen on people who were different in that way, so he did everything he could to (not quite successfully) hide it? Check again. Music playing a huge factor in his life? Yup. Turning to humor and sarcasm in an effort to get people to like him and help him fit in at a time when he really didn't feel he fit in at all? Umm, hello, have you met me?

"I did a lot of embarrassing things and put myself through a lot of useless trouble on the road to accepting myself, and it would have been a much more painful experience had I not had access to the most powerful stimulant known to humankind: the music and popular culture of the last forty years."

Holmes talks about growing up in a Catholic family in St. Louis, where he succeeded in being the funny one so no one noticed how non-athletic he was, and what it was like going to an all-boys Catholic school, surrounded by boys that he was absolutely infatuated with, but he and his other gay friends (although none of them acknowledged this fact) had to pretend this wasn't the case. He also shares memories of going to a Catholic college while toying with the idea of coming out of the closet and starting to accept his sexuality. (Needless to say, that wasn't easy either.)

While there were so many moments in this book that I utterly identified with him and how he felt at various times in his life (hell, we even had obsessions with many of the same male celebrities in the 1980s and 1990s), it was so enjoyable getting his take on what it was like to be a part of MTV in its late-90s heyday, finally getting the chance to do what he loved and be with people who shared the same interests. He name dropped a little without being pretentious, and shared some of the eye-rolling moments of his pseudo-celebrity status as well as some of the ultra-cool ones. And he also touched on what it is like to be a pop culture aficionado who suddenly feels like that world is passing him by, because he's not as up on the new musical acts as he once was.

This is a funny and at times emotional book, probably more so because I know what it feels like to finally come to terms with who you are and finally not give a damn what people think. But Holmes doesn't hit you over the head with inspirational lessons—he doesn't pretend to know more than anyone else about self-discovery or self-acceptance; this is just his story.

I don't know that this is a book for everyone, but if you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, and remember what it was like when MTV played music videos; if you remember shows like Punky Brewster and the ABC Saturday night lineup of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island; or if you know what it's like to struggle with knowing you're different, then Party of One will be right up your alley. I think Dave and I would be either really close friends if he lived in this area, or we'd constantly try to one up each other. Either way, sounds like fun.

I loved this.

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