Review by Steve Giegerich
Take it from someone with roots in southwest Michigan: Wade Rouse gets a lot right in "At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream," his rumination on life in the quaint and over-priced lakeside village of Saugatuck.
Pulling in a clear signal from a NPR station in that neck of the woods is, indeed, like trying to find a decent independently produced bagel in St. Louis.
It really does snow "with all the seriousness and severity of Dick Cheney."
And Rouse's description of the scene at the Wal-Mart that pretty much wiped out every family business in my hometown is dead-on:
"To the left is a McDonald's; straight ahead is a bakery. The next thing we notice is mullets. Lots of them. And families with packs of children. Not just two or three, or even - like in St. Louis's staunchly Catholic families - four or five, but hordes of kids, like an elementary school class that's gone on a school trip to study bad hair and fried food."
Unfortunately, for every dead-on observation there is a quip that is, well, just plain deadly.
It was probably inevitable that reviews of Rouse's "America's Boy" and "Confessions of a Prep School Mommy Handler" stereotyped the author by comparing his work favorably to that of another gay humor writer, David Sedaris.
But "At Least in the City Someone Would Hear Me Scream" is not quite in the same literary league.
Sometimes the riffs that detail Rouse's transition from the urban jungle that is St. Louis to the frigid tundra that is Saugatuck work:
"He can be so Deepak Chopra when he wants to be," Rouse writes of his partner, Gary.
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But other times, the writing lapses into the silly.
A fisherman helps Rouse after he slips on ice, and he writes: "I think of kissing him as a thank-you, but when I look into his face, all I see are two pale blue eyes and a mouth with cracked lips.
"It's like 'Saw' on ice."
But when he isn't trying too hard, Rouse's characterization of rural Michigan is as vivid, true and as fun as a toboggan trip down the 600-foot dune known as Mount Baldy.