My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Written by the perpetual uncool kid that was always looking in, Dave Holmes writes a hilarious and insightful look into not only his psyche but also into the music of “the last forty years” (and the pop culture) in Party of One.
Holmes follows his young self as he manages his adolescence, teens, and adulthood. (Holmes gained semi-famous status in 1998 as the runner-up in the first I Wanna Be a VJ competition on MTV. Although he didn’t win, he did make himself a staple at MTV for the next few years.)
There are so many opportunities for the younger Holmes to embrace a peer group (and himself). There was a creative writing summer course when he was in high school. There was his time in college as a founding member (and catalyst) for a gay and lesbian support group (“alas, the B and T were not yet invited to the party”) on his conservative Catholic campus.
Each time, though, his participation in clubs, groups and society left him more isolated. (He ended up getting kicked out of this latter group because he talked to one of the members, a female lacrosse player, in a bar. Secretiveness was a mantra for this fledgling group.)
It took Holmes a long time (and 21 songs) to find out that not fitting in is in fact a niche unto itself.
This book is not all about teen or young adult angst. As Holmes writes about his foibles, trials, and tribulations, he is hilarious. More than once, I found myself laughing out loud. Truly. Holmes’ writing style reminded me of a younger and much more self-deprecating David Sedaris (whom I find pee-my-pants hysterical).
Every so often, Holmes interjects an interlude. These are usually more associations with the songs of the era and more pop culture. Even though Holmes is about five years younger than me, I found myself identifying with the heartache, longing and emotion that some of these songs stirred in me as a young adult.
Yes, while Holmes wrote about his high school and early college years, he led me down memory lane. I could easily identify and remember each song and all of the following pop culture high points of the 80s and early 90s:
- The United Colors of Benetton
- Sea Breeze
- Melrose Place
- Friday Night Videos (Cable was not even an option for me in the mid-80s.)
- answering machines
- Drakkar Noir
Then, it happened. As I read about Holmes during his mid-twenties in NYC, I started having to Google everything.
When you’re young, you think you’re always going to know every song in the Top 40. You feel pity for the old people who have to ask you what’s playing on the radio. If you think about their tastes at all, you assume they’ve always been this out of touch. Incapable of keeping up since forever. Old even when they were young.
And then one day it happens to you.
It happened to me about halfway through the book. Although I enjoyed reading about his days at MTV and his subsequent forays into acting in LA, I definitely felt like someone who was never hip. I loved the first half of the book. I was too busy Googling during the second half. It was hard to keep up. I also found some of Holmes’ escapades a bit suspect toward the end of the book.
Party of One opens with a T.S. Eliot allusion in the first few pages from Frank Turner’s song, “I Knew Prufrock Before He was Famous.” How ironic as Holmes spent his adult formative years asking himself “Do I dare to eat a peach?” Perhaps he should have embraced himself like the Bee Girl of Blind Melon’s “No Rain” video. But, if he had done that in 1992, we would not have this hilarious and poignant memoir.
If you were under the age of 30 during the 90s, love pop culture, or need a good laugh, I think Party of One will at least make you smile while remembering those times where every song spoke directly to you.
For my recipe on the side, I decided to research the quintessential recipe of the 90s. Over and over I found references to single serving molten chocolate cakes. I thought this Party of One recipe would be appropriate to celebrate Holmes’ first book. (My inspiration also comes from another 90s icon, Martha Stewart.)
Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake
based on recipe found here
4 T. unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for muffin tins
1/8 c. turbinado sugar
1/3 c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs
½ t. ground cinnamon
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. sea salt
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter 6 cups of a standard muffin tin. Dust with trubinado sugar, and tap out excess. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add cinnamon. With the mixer on low speed, beat in flour and salt until just combined. Beat in chocolate until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups.
Place muffin tin on a baking sheet; bake just until tops of the cakes no longer jiggle when the pan is lightly shaken, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.
To serve, turn out cakes, and place on serving plates, bottom sides up. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, and serve with whipped cream, if desired.
Since the turbinado sugar gave the outer surface a very satisfying texture, I chose not to dust these with powdered sugar. Instead, I served one scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side and dusted it with a bit of cocoa powder.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, exclamations, gushing and rants are my own.