In a world where reality TV dominates the airwaves, it can be difficult to remember just how unreal the popular genre is. Most people aren’t fabulously wealthy and don’t spend all their time shopping like the Kardashian clan, but neither are they anomalies like “The Man With the 132 Lb. Scrotum,” which will debut Aug. 19 on The Learning Channel.
Most people are just plain ordinary, living normal ordinary lives. And despite not owning $1,000 red-soled shoes or not dating a famous athlete, they still manage to have a life with relationships, a job, and the occasional drama.
“West of Me,” the debut self-published novel by Jersey City resident Jamie Godfrey, is a book about the real lives of ordinary people. Initially started as a screenplay during a course Godfrey took 10 years ago, “West of Me” is a novel based on experiences from the author’s own life.
“I started the book as a screenplay but I never finished it. For years I just had this file on my computer. And over the years, as I got new computers, that file would just get transferred over. But it was just sitting there. I don’t know why I saw this as a screenplay for so long. But I did. And every once in a while I would add a little to it here and there. But it pretty much just sat in a folder on the computer.”
Occasionally, Godfrey would show drafts to close friends who encouraged him to finish the project, and finally while on a 15-hour plane ride to India, he did.
A book that Godfrey calls “a valentine to New York” follows a young gay man as he tries – sometimes humorously, sometimes painfully – to make connections with potential mates and navigates a series of horrible jobs and difficult bosses.
‘There is this stereotype that all gay men are super good looking or have these amazing abs.’
In one chapter the main character, Kyle Meyers, stands on a street corner in Times Square waiting for a date he met online. He waits. And waits. And waits. He eventually sends his date a text to see if he has been delayed. The would-be date soon relies: “Sorry. Not my type.” It is immediately clear that the date had walked past the designated meeting spot, took a quick look, didn’t like what he saw, and moved on.
Of course, this coin has a flip side. The flip side being that Meyers sometimes also rejects men he finds unappealing, like Barry, a creative director who, at age 60, still has long hair that he pulls back in a ponytail. When Barry tries to make a romantic move on him, Meyers turns away, saying he has to go.
Sensing a lie Barry, finally asks, “It’s the ponytail, isn’t it?”
Yep, it was the ponytail. And with that, Meyers is out the door and off to another adventure.
Meyers’ mishaps in love are interspersed with daytime dramas from his job as an office assistant for a venerable men’s clothing store where he works for the aptly-named Dick.
Godfrey said he didn’t want the book to be such a downer that no one would read it. Thus, Meyers’ on-the-job horror stories provide moments of levity throughout the narrative.
“I really wanted to strike a balance,” said Godfrey, who is, like his protagonist, a native of Wisconsin. “I really wanted it to be funny and at times sad. There are moments where Kyle goes through these really awful dating scenarios or these really horrendous work situations. So, I wanted to balance out those two aspects of the book. But I still wanted there to be this sense that anything is possible in New York City, and in this area in general.”
“West of Me” can be purchased in print and electronic editions through Amazon.com and Godfrey’s website, www.jamiegodfrey.com/westofme/westofme.html.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.