Monday, July 11, 2005

Paul Feig -- Geeks and Sex: American Style

Since this Wednesday marks the beginning of my favorite international geekfest, The San Diego Comicon, I thought that I would mark the occasion by reviewing the most recent memoir by Paul Feig the creator of Freaks and Geeks, his website can be found here and he is a regular commentator on Huffington's Post.

June 28th saw the release of Paul Feig's latest memoir Superstud: Or How I Became a 24 Year Old Virgin, the follow up to 2002's Kick Me. Superstud contains a series of linked essays in which Paul Feig discusses the development of his sex life, from childhood to the loss of his virginity (though he does have an afterword to let us know he has in fact survived the harrowing experience and is a happily married man).

Before I get into the "meat" of the matter, I would like to point out one small part of the writing craft in this book. Feig displays an amazing proficiency with being able to end one chapter with a sentence that seemlessly ties it into the next story. In fact, this particular feature made it impossible for me to put the book down until I had finished it. Not surprisingly my favorite seque was the first, "Little did I know that my own mother was conspiring against me." This line comes mid-page at a chapter break! Who wouldn't have to turn the page after reading this line? What does he mean that his mother was conspiring against him? You'll have to read the book to find out, but it has to do with the same reason I was continually attempting to "borrow" the "girl sitting in front of me in 7th grade's" copy of Vogue.

In his discussion of how one self-described geek struggled through the trials and tribulations of sexual experience, Feig makes one thing clear -- the universality of "dating" horror stories. Whether you lost your virginity at 24 or 14, you will still come across many examples seemingly plucked from your own life and placed in the pages of someone else's memoir.

Feig's narrative takes a straight forward and linear approach to the issue. So the first section, or book, (the one with the most essays if not the most pages) covers the quintessent and overpracticed activity known as masturbation. From his days of pre-understanding "good feelings" to his rabid hunt for visual stimulation, these chapters are thoroughly entertaining. As an aside though, I have to note that his comments during his "book store" days regarding the "Freaks and Jocks who beat him up in school" being the ones shoplifting from the local bookstore are unfair. More likely it was someone like me, in fact if he weren't a decade older than me and a Michigander I would have thought he was directly insulting me. You see, I was the kid who had found an affection for reading, but was too poor to buy books and whose parents dispised "Role Playing Games" so I acquired some by 5 finger discount. And to be honest...how many stoners and jocks do you know who would steal books?

Feig ends his "book" about masturbation with the most natural of endings...that of parental discovery and transports us into the world of middle school and high school dating. We all remember those days. People cooler than us constantly going out to parties or to go "cruising." We all have our use the concert to get the woman story, but I have to admit that mine pales in comparison to Feig's. Feig's date with Jill Holsteader to an REO show rates among the all-time most nightmarish and hilarious experiences penned to date. Just when you think the date can't get any worse, it does. But the whole thing is made tolerable, as these things can be in the best of cases, by the love of Feig's father.

Now would be a good time to mention that Feig's representation of his parents in this book is wonderful and demonstrative of the love he feels toward them. He states in his dedication that his parents probably wouldn't have wanted the book dedicated to them if they were still alive, but given his kind and loving presentation of his parents I would have to disagree. They might have thought their son was a little crazy, but they would have had the one great parental mystery answered for them and known that their child loves them dearly.

After the high school dating section Feig moves us into his post-high school dating days, divided into two sections Wayne State years and summer before USC (with a brief Christmas first SC semester reprise). The last section, naturally, contains a biblical stylized chapter in which Feig loses his virginity.

I could go into detail as to how each of his dating experiences reflects some part of my own, but to do so would be to give up too much of the ghost and not allow any potential readers of Feig's memoir the joy of self discovery. I am also now tempted to write my own memoir of my personal sexual adventures. In a way that is the highest compliment one can give a book, the desire to produce something similar to share with the world. In that way we can participate in a dialogue with someone who connected with us.

In a world where most people aren't Don Juan, it is refreshing to read the escapades of someone almost just like us.

Oh and before I forget, read the chapter that Feig begs you not to read. He really does mean that you shouldn't read it, and the subject is disturbing, but for some reason I thought even more highly of him after reading the chapter. That is the opposite of his fear.

Oh right, I also command you to go out and buy Freaks and Geeks right now, or at least put in on your Netflix queue.
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