Author Dan Kennedy is, from all appearances, not the sort of man who should be writing a book.If his minor words are legitimized by placing them
between two hard covers, then the rest of us poor fools have every
right under the sun to claim that we too are entitled to have our
lives, our thoughts, or even our bowel movements committed to print. In
his “memoir” Loser Goes First, Kennedy establishes himself as
yet another American under 35 who believes the mere act of breathing
entitles him to chronicle his daily experiences in book form. There is
nothing distinct or memorable about Mr. Kennedy (it is likely that
every single human being alive can claim to have lived through similar
events), and it is as certain as the Earth’s journey around the sun
that no one outside of Mr. Kennedy’s immediate circle will ever
remember that such a book existed. Loser Goes First is not a
boring book, nor is it one that forces the reader to throw it against
the wall in a fury, but it is not an important book; it is instead a
narrow chronicle that resembles the diary of a man who is unable to
place his struggles in a larger context.

Where such books as Nickel and Dimed or Selling Ben Cheever examined the world of work with humor and political relevance, Loser Goes First
demonstrates nothing other than the fact that this man, Dan Kennedy,
worked a series of strange and unfulfilling jobs, all the while hoping
that he reached his dream of working in the music business. Some of his
experiences – from a health club to fighting forest fires – have humor
in spots, but it is simply not enough to give us the umpteenth portrait
of a wacky customer or an anal boss. Yes, we know that work is often
taxing and rarely challenges our minds, but unless an author can make a
larger statement about these issues, they are simply idle observations
and no more consequential than moaning about soggy Corn Flakes. In
other words, each of us could fill a massive tome with strange
happenings (anything from sexual assignations on the job to
embezzlement to near fistfights with humorless middle managers), but it
takes a gifted writer – an artist – to show the universality in his plight. We all suffer, dear Dan, but what does that suffering mean?
Are the jobs we humiliate ourselves with in 2003 any different than
those that caused our parents grief in 1963? If so, why? What is so
different about the modern service industry that causes so many to
shuffle home with an equal dose of homicidal rage and suicidal
despondency? Is there a connection between where we work and our inner
self? Are these questions even important? Mr. Kennedy would rather not
consider them because he is far too busy impressing us with smarm,
silliness, and the fact that he is, improbably, an author.

Loser Goes First is a book that can and should be
completed in no more than two sittings, and its charms are as fleeting
as the wind. Nothing is as frustrating as reading a book that fails to
impress and causes one to shout, “I can do better than this asshole.” I
read, or embarked on the endeavor in the first place, in the hopes that
I might be challenged – even awed – by the skill and insight of the
author. Frankly, it is my hope that when I put a book down for the last
time with the realization that writing for a living is far beyond my
capabilities and if authors like this continue to come down the pike,
there is no way I could ever survive the competitive rush. If Mr.
Kennedy is all we have, however, then I will be forced to conclude that
perhaps I too should be pumping out books, regardless of content. And
if I am thinking such things, so are thousands of others, with the high
likelihood that they are even less educated and able than I. All of us
who are currently alive must carry out each day in our own way, but
where is it written that our actions and behaviors must be shared with
everyone else? What ever happened to books that did not involve the
inane fluttering of narcissistic youth? Live a little, Mr. Kennedy, and
then get back to me. Books should come from experience, not the old,
tired belief that everyone “has at least one book in him.”

About Matt

Matt is the site’s Longest Serving Critic and chief misanthrope. He divides his time between classics of cinema and the most ridiculous movies he can find on Redbox.
Follow Matt: @mattcale52