My Year As a Clown
written by Robert Steven Williams
published by Against the Grain Press
Why did I pick this book: I participated in the blog tour hosted by Virtual Author Book Tours. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)
Did I enjoy this book: This is a tough one. I would say, yes, I did enjoy it to an extent. It had some flaws but it was interesting to read a chick lit-type book from the man’s perspective. You could call My Year As a Clown dude lit.
Let’s discuss the good first. It was interesting to read the man’s perspective. Chuck is a man, almost a cliche man. He constantly talks about football, smoking pot, and beating off. He is a die-hard Eagles fan; he believes his actions control the fate of the team. He is also a writer and a music producer. Chuck is a sensitive guy but not that overly-mushy, sensitive guy for the most part. I felt bad for him about his divorce. I thought his wife Claudia was unreasonable and dragging out the proceedings because of greed. I’ve seen this happen. This was real. Chuck’s reactions to the divorce were surprising but raw. His dating life and rediscovery were true. I got it. I understood it.
There were funny moments. His brother was a trip. Anyone can picture Jimmy. There were moments that made me shake my head. There were other moments that I was proud of Chuck. And there were moments that ticked me off.
Let’s discuss the not so good now. Chuck smoked pot almost every day and he talked about beating off in every chapter. I get it but do we need to hear about it that much? Where does he get the money for all that pot if he is out of a job and going through a divorce? His response to learning that Rachel lost 70 pounds were shallow and I wanted to close the book at this point. I’m sure they were true responses and that a lot of men would think that, but I think a lot of women reading this book would be offended. If I were a guy, I’d probably get it even more. At one point, I changed my mindset for reading this book. I stopped reading this from a woman’s point of view and started reading it from a guy’s point of view. A guy would totally get this book, except for the emails to Pauline. Those were a bit too sentimental and touchy-feely for me. A bit unbelievable. I think most guys would razz Chuck about those emails, and probably the meditation and yoga retreats as well. 😉
One thing that really bugged me was the use of “Xmas” in the book. There’s no reason for that. Spell out “Christmas” like you do at other times in the book, and in the same sentences. Be consistent.
All-in-all, an okay read, an interesting read, a read that kept me reading to the end because I wanted to know how everything worked out for Chuck.
Would I recommend it: Check out this book if you think you would like dude lit or you think you would like to read the man’s perspective in a divorce. Just to warn, there are some scenes in the bedroom that are kind of explicit.
Will I read it again: I will not.
About the book – from Goodreads: With My Year As a Clown, Williams introduces us to Chuck Morgan, a new kind of male hero—imperfect and uncertain—fumbling his way forward in the aftermath of the abrupt collapse his 20-year marriage.
Initially, Chuck worries he’ll never have a relationship again, that he could stand in the lobby of a brothel with a hundred dollar bill plastered to his forehead and still not get lucky. But as his emotionally raw, 365-day odyssey unfolds, Chuck gradually relearns to live on his own, navigating the minefield of issues faced by the suddenly single—new routines, awkward dates, and even more awkward sex.
Edited by Joy Johannessen (Alice Sebold, Michael Cunningham, Amy Bloom), My Year As a Clown will attract fans of the new breed of novelists that includes Nick Hornby, Jonathan Tropper and Tom Perrotta. Like others in that distinguished group, Robert Steven Williams delivers a painfully honest glimpses into the modern male psyche while writing about both sexes with equal ease and grace in a way that’s both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.
I want to thank the site Every Free Chance for allowing me to post a guest blog. Given that the women behind this site are based in Pennsylvania, I thought I’d discuss the sports aspect of My Year as a Clown. Chuck Morgan is a die-hard Philly fan and he particularly loves his Eagles. The team shows promise of late (the book parallels the 2003 season), but so far, it’s never won a Super Bowl.
When I was writing the novel I was conscious of not wanting to turn away people (specifically women) who abhor sports. Recognizing that you can’t please everyone, nor should a writer try, I wanted to create that sense of how sports can affect a relationship when the man is obsessed and the woman is indifferent.
At the same time, I also wanted to use a guy’s commitment to a team, even when they are perennial losers, as a metaphor for loyalty.
Chuck’s wife doesn’t understand why he doesn’t simply change teams – she doesn’t know much about football, but she knows that the Eagles will lose.
Reflecting upon the collapse of his marriage, Chuck at first thinks it’s all her fault, it takes the year for him to start to see that he must assume some responsibility. As the author, I wanted to show that his football obsession caused problems, but I also wanted it to drive home an even more important theme: she’s what Chuck would call a ‘fair weather’ fan, that sort of fan can switch teams effortlessly, and at some point this hits home for Chuck and explains how she so cavalierly left him for another man after 20 years of marriage.
Chuck knew there were problems with the relationship, but it never crossed his mind to dump her for another woman – he was committed, just as he’s committed to supporting the Eagles despite never winning the Super Bowl.
I also use sports to explore the bond between brothers, sons and fathers too – it’s an excellent way to explore the emotional connections between men. When Chuck’s brother moves to Dallas and becomes a Cowboy fan, he might as well have joined the North, if he’d grownup in the South during the Civil War—sports creates that level of angst.
I recently got a note from a woman who had read the book who said that she almost put it down because the opening sequences reminded her of her honeymoon – her husband needed to catch the Final Four/March Madness and she wasn’t pleased. Lucky for both of us, she didn’t put the book down and after reading it she said she understood better where he husband was coming from and she realized that not all of this obsession was a bad thing. She thanked me for writing the book.
I couldn’t have asked for a better note. Literature should make you uncomfortable, not to the point of horror, but to the point of having an opportunity to learn about yourself from someone else’s story.
There are lots of funny bits in the book too – you know how avid sports fans are superstitious, believing that somehow what they do, say or wear can affect their favorite team. I had fun with that in My Year as a Clown because I created two-way Mojo, not only did Chuck believe that what he did could influence the outcome of an Eagle game, the Eagle’s on-field performance could affect his life.
The 2003 Eagle season starts off poorly, but soon turns and the team ends up in the NFC Championship game for the third consecutive year. The stakes could not be higher for the team, and the same can be said for Chuck who’s dealing with lawyers and the terms of a divorce, as well as confronting dating after 20 years of being with one woman–it all makes for an action-packed year for Chuck.
Thanks so much for having me on the site.
Robert Steven Williams
About the author: Robert Steven Williams is an author, singer-songwriter, and musician. His debut novel, My Year as a Clown (Against the Grain Press), was released in January 2013.
As a writer, Williams was a finalist in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and was awarded a Squaw Valley Writers Community Thayer Scholarship. He attended Bread Loaf, Sewanee and the Squaw Valley Writers’ Conferences, and worked closely with the esteemed fiction writer, Barry Hannah. His short fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine, The Orange Coast Review, and the anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories Volume II. Additionally, he was the executive producer of the critically acclaimed BOOM! Studios CBGB Comic series, nominated in 2011 for a Harvey Award for Best Anthology. Robert’s work has also appeared in Poets & Writers Magazine, Billboard, USA Today and LetterPress, a newsletter for writers. He is also co-author of the best-selling business book, The World’s Largest Market.
As a musician, Williams studied songwriting with Rosanne Cash, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and other top country writers. In 2005, he released the critically acclaimed CD “I Am Not My Job,” featuring Rachel Z (Peter Gabriel, Wayne Shorter) and Sloan Wainwright.