Ariel Zinsky is a football-obsessed single guy living in New York. His best friend is his mother, and he’s a lonely guy who waits tables and pours his soul into his sports publication, which is steadily gaining followers but digging him further into debt. At the ripe old age of 30, Ariel has decided to sit down and write his autobiography, recounting why he turned out the way he did and giving the readers insight into some of his more questionable life choices.
Ariel was suicidal by the time he was nine-years-old. His father left them early on, and every time he’d see Ariel, violent beatings would ensue. As he writes his autobiography, Ariel is pretty matter-of-fact about the abuse he suffered as a child, but it’s also important to him that he shares the information, since it will help shape the person he’s to become. Making matters worse for Ariel is his appearance: he lost of his hair early in adolescence and grew to be 6’8″.
With his freakish appearance and painful background, it seems like he’s perpetually stuck in a weird adolescent phase regardless of his age. Whether he’s single or dating, buried in debt or financially secure, Ariel can be at turns needy, insecure, and self-pitying…or confident and completely self-assured about himself and his ventures. DIfferent layers of his personality are always bubbling just beneath the surface. The book is kind of like a coming-of-age story, except the person coming of age is a weird 30-year-old man with serious issues.
People might love all of the literary references in the book, particularly regarding The Great Gatsby. There’s definitely also a touch of A Confederacy of Dunces that comes through (especially if you went through Dunces mentally shouting “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!!” at Ignatius J. Reilly). Ariel Zinsky brought a similar response out of me. Although he’s not nearly as overwhelming as Ignatius, he makes some truly questionable choices and is oftentimes a horrible human being. He can also be really whiny, and as a narrator, it sometimes seems like he’s stuck in the echo chamber of his mind. But he can also be really funny if you’re into unlikeable characters and dark humor (and I definitely am).
The book’s not for everyone on account of the sex and violence, but I liked it. Ariel is over-the-top, but ultimately the book does show how a cycle of abuse can perpetuate itself in unexpected ways. It’s well written, and like him or not, Ariel Zinsky is a character you’ll remember.
Zinsky the Obscure is on tour right now, so check out what other bloggers are saying about it.