We’re all familiar with chick lit (and either find it a nifty subgenre or an offensive term); but how well-versed are you “dude lit?” If you’re looking for a prime example of this oft-ignored (purposefully overlooked?) subgenre then look no further than Jonathan Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go. (Of course novels about self-indulgent middle-aged heterosexual men isn’t my cup of tea, so the rest of this review will be somewhat biased.)
Our dude protagonist is Silver, a divorced, former “rock star” with an estranged daughter, who lives with fellow burned-out middle-aged men in a trashy efficiency hotel ironically named Versailles. His life is going nowhere until said estranged daughter Casey arrives at his door confiding her elicit pregnancy to him and inexplicably seeking his guidance. Suddenly feeling purposeful again, Silver advises her to get an abortion; but before she goes through with it he collapses from a heart attack.
Although he doesn’t die, his ex-wife’s fiancé diagnoses him with an aortic dissection that requires immediate surgery. But instead of extending his “useless” life, Silver decides to forego surgery and “enjoy” what’s left of his life. What follows is everyone in Silver’s life trying to dissuade him from giving up, using various tactics to persuade him (one of which involves his Rabbi father’s convoluted plan to take him to various rites-of-passage ceremonies to teach him a lesson about life). And all the while Silver gets a free pass to say literally everything on his mind because, due to the dissection, his brain has no filter.
Reviews describe this novel as “hilarious” and “zany,” yet I never once laughed (and I’m the first one to giggle, chuckle, or snort while reading an amusing novel). The “funny” segments of the novel felt too forced and the jokes too obvious. Reviews also describe it as “poignant” and “heartrending,” yet I found Silver too unlikable to find any of his personal journey emotionally affecting (but I’m also one to usually avoid anything described as “poignant”). That being said, I found Tropper’s rhythm and language very interesting, which left me enjoying the novel as I read it even though I didn’t enjoy anything the characters did—hence why he’s such a notable dude lit author.
Weird Side Note: The novel has been optioned to be adapted into a film by J.J. Abrams.