There are two kinds of humorists: those to whom unusual things happen and those whose lives are completely ordinary. In the former category are writers like David Sedaris, to whom fate hands interesting twists--he is gay, he has a wacky family, he lives in Paris--all of which then become comic material. Dan Zevin, author of The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up, is firmly in the latter category. His bread and butter is the Seinfeld-ian nothingness of everyday life.
Zevin's theme is the agony of becoming an adult, a condition finally afflicting the generation formerly known as X. In each of the book's 24 short chapters, Zevin, who is 37, confesses to having done something no self-respecting slacker would be caught dead doing: "I played golf," "I joined a health club," "I take pride in my lawn." To his disgust, he is turning into one of those people "with mortgages, health insurance [and] special sheds to store their garbage cans." There are some easy targets here--Zevin goes after such battered bull's-eyes as psychotherapy and the state of New Jersey--but he hits them unerringly and sometimes from unexpected angles. Here he is on the prospect of paternity: "I don't want to be a father; I want to be a baby."
It's funny stuff, but The Day I Turned Uncool grates a bit after 150 pages. Sedaris' work has a melancholy undertone that keeps it from cloying, and he has the gift of being funny even when he has something serious to say. Zevin is hilarious when he is humiliating himself, like the time he accidentally invites a pornographer to address his journalism class, but much less so in his philosophical moments, when he urges us to accept the inevitability of growing up. In fact, perhaps he shouldn't grow up at all. He's at his funniest when he's acting like a child.
--By Lev Grossman