What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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My Friend Leonard
by James Frey

Field-Tested by Claire Zulkey

in Santa Barbara, California

I read James Frey's My Friend Leonard last summer on a road trip with two girlfriends. Not “a” road trip, actually, “the” road trip. I'm purposefully forgetting the parts where we bickered and got lost, but we knew, in the end, it would be the kind of trip we'd talk about the rest of our lives. We saw one of our best friends get married in an apple orchard outside San Francisco; we drove up the Pacific Coast Highway; and we drank four bottles of wine during the day on the Fourth of July on a pier in Santa Barbara and staggered back to our hotels, taking an unwise swim in the somewhat-clean motel pool.

The trip was also noteworthy for me in that I was successfully unplugged for an entire week. I haven't gone that long without internet and email in a long, long time. The only piece of pop culture I carried with me was Frey's second book, which was sent to me as a complimentary copy. It sat around in my apartment for a long time after I got it, and I think I grabbed it as I packed almost as an afterthought.

It had been such a long time since I had read a book that made me linger and stay up late. Or, maybe I had forgotten that joy due to all the other crap in my life and rediscovered it thanks to a week of fun, friends, booze, food, and beautiful country. But I remember reading that paperback on the balcony of our pleasantly-crappy motel in Santa Barbara, and in the hotel room in Booneville, California the day my friend was going to get married. I really enjoyed that book, and I really enjoyed enjoying that book.

Claire Zulkey is a writer living in Chicago. She is a television critic for the LATimes.com and The AV Club, the entertainment section of The Onion. In 2009, she will be publishing her first Young Adult novel with Dutton. You can find out more about her at her website.

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