Life As A Loser
by Will Leitch
Published by Arriviste
208 pages, 2004
When Brazen Eyes Are Smiling
Reviewed by Chris Gsell
The compilation of essays in Life as a Loser depicts a man at the lowest, most miserable points in his life. Written by Will Leitch and assembled for the first time in this hilarious memoir, Leitch has recorded everything that has happened to him in the past few years, from his inept ability to play baseball as a child to being completely broke and walking 90-plus blocks home from work to save on New York City subway fare.
Over the last few years, Will Leitch has kept an online diary of sorts. Taken from a Web site which he edits, Life as a Loser is a collection of several of those essays, plus some new material. There are over 45 essays here, covering a wide range of topics including his love of baseball, his wacky family and his uncanny ability to lose every job he gets. Leitch's essays expose the reader to some of his most intimate of thoughts. And nothing is off limits.
Life as a Loser opens with one of many stand out essays, "Consolation Prize." In it, he chronicles his addiction to game shows and his obsession with actually become a participant on one. Eventually he does. But during the show, as it is being taped before a live studio audience, he is dumped by his fiancé. It is a hilarious look at what was surely a devastating moment in his life. But Leitch's spin on it will have the reader laughing out loud, shaking their heads and wondering how anyone could survive such an ordeal.
As I began digging further into the book, and as a result, deeper into Leitch's head, I found a certain level of comfort. He is able to put down on paper what we rarely vocalize, less we be deemed a loser; those worrisome thoughts on life, love and the meaning of it all. Throughout his essays Leitch writes about one miserable experiences after another. And even though these are Leitch's tales, the stories seem familiar. I began to take solace in knowing I was not alone with these issues. Misery loves company. And what kept me reading was Leitch's sense of humor throughout his misery.
Leitch looks at life through brazen eyes which keep his head afloat as he watches his world sink even further. Just when he thinks things cannot get any worse, he visits a friend who takes poverty to a whole new level in "Pretend Sandwiches." Moving back home, unemployed, and driving his parent's old car, Leitch realizes things aren't so bad after all. Insightful moments like these are sprinkled throughout his book and surprisingly illustrate Leitch's human side and his optimistic outlook for the future.
His essays also touch on the turning point in every mid 20 year old's life -- growing up. Here, in stories like "Adult World," "We are $%#*@ Old" and "Back to Work," Leitch tackles the fears we all face upon reaching the age of majority. Like any mid-20 year old, it's a rough transition entering the adult world and obtaining a new set of responsibilities. Leitch's depiction of his bumpy ride is written in a poignant and insightful way. And while in one essay he proves just how grown up he is becoming, in the next, like "Rough Day," you see not much has changed in Leitch since he was a child. His views on life have not steered that far off course upon sailing into the adult world. This back and forth honesty shapes these essays into something more: a true representation of one person's thoughts and feelings. No pretensions here.
With so many essays included in Life as a Loser, there were some that could have been omitted. There are a few that do not have much of a point to them. Instead, they read like mindless banter put down on paper. However, when you write daily essays on everyday happenings in your life, not everything does have a point. It barely distracts from the overall pace of the book and there are plenty of strong stories that overshadow those that are weaker.
With the daily pressure we all carry in our lives, it's nice to read about someone who had it just as bad, if not worse, than us. I took comfort in Leitch's essays. Use Life as a Loser as a support system to get through those rough days. Will Leitch is able to make you laugh at his most devastating and depressing moments and shed a tear at his most affecting. | April 2004
Chris Gsell lives in South Jersey. By day he works for an ad agency, at night he enjoys reading and writing about books.