Synopses & Reviews
Fresh out of college and following a brief and disastrous stint playing minor league baseball, David Goodwillie moves to New York intent on making his mark as a writer.
Arriving in Manhattan in the mid-nineties, Goodwillie quickly falls into one implausible job after another. He becomes a private investigator, imagining himself as a gumshoe, a hired gun—only to realize that he's more adept at bungling cases than at solving them. When, in his stint as a freelance journalist, he unveils the Mafia in a magazine exposé, he succeeds only in becoming a target of their wrath. As a copywriter for a sports auction house, he imagines documenting the great histories hidden in priceless artifacts but finds himself forced to write about a lock of Mickey Mantle's hair. Even when he seems to break through, somehow becoming the sports expert at Sotheby's auction house—appearing on major news networks, raking in a hefty salary—he's lured away by the promise of Internet millions...just in time for the dot-com crash.
Teeming with the vibrancy of a city in hyperdrive, Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time recounts a dizzying and enthralling search for authenticity in a cynical, superficial—and suddenly dangerous—age.
In his heartbreaking and hilarious struggle to become a big-city writer, Goodwillie becomes something more: an important voice of the lost generation he so elegantly describes.
"Goodwillie's chronicle of his New York days and nights in the exuberant years of the late 1990s can be accurately characterized by its own title. A 1995 graduate of Kenyon College, the author failed at a Cincinnati Reds tryout, then went East for the big city's bright lights (comparisons to Jay McInerney's 1985 classic are unavoidable). During his days, Goodwillie changed jobs private investigator, copywriter, journalist, sports expert the way free agents change teams; by night, he swung with the best of them whatever the venue, whatever the side: neocon right or Clintonian left; Upper West or Lower East. The author wisely depicts himself as ironist naf, and he exuberantly relates episode after episode. However, the matters of his steady job, housing and relationships (or lack thereof) never quite cohere into memorable drama. Still, finely wrought details anchor the story in time and place, and perhaps the work's lack of moral weight is the truest mark of the decade it portrays. Goodwillie has written a frenetic picaresque with little soul but lots of rhythm. (June 2)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"After six years spent wondering if he has anything to say, [Goodwillie] has certainly amassed enough raw, dizzying experience for this memoir of the World's City lurching into a new millennium." Booklist
"[A] fresh and invigorating debut....[A] congenial tone of self-mockery and smart, finely tuned storytelling. A memoir of bilious excess, related with humor and just the right amount of acidic sadness." Kirkus Reviews
"[E]ntertaining and thoughtful....[Goodwillie] draws readers in with a witty, worldly, often self-deprecating style that vividly evokes the breathless pace of the city." Library Journal
"The real problem that Mr. Goodwillie faces as a writer...isn't his over-reliance on cliché so much as his fatal lack of irony....Mr. Goodwillie is in deadly earnest 100% of the time." The Wall Street Journal
"David Goodwillie, in his 1990s picaresque Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
, exhibits signs of nostalgia, but what he seems to yearn for is some mythical, writerly New York era; his attitude toward his own life and times is aptly summarized by the bemused backward glancing of the title. This is a happy balance, and it gives what might otherwise feel like a familiar story (boy moves to the big city, dates and works with mixed success) charm and energy....Through it all, the author keeps some literary dreams alive. They have allowed him to produce a chatty, earnest, hilarious, and addictive account of what it was to be young last decade." Anna Godbersen, Esquire
(read the entire Esquire review
A talented young writer gives voice to a generation in this exhilarating memoir that chronicles the detours, dead ends, and dubious decisions made while searching for what really matters.
After a disastrous stint playing professional baseball, David Goodwillie moves to New York City with vague notions of literary stardom. But what happens next is anything but triumphant. Goodwillie quickly falls into one implausible job after another a private investigator; a magazine journalist trailing the Mafia; and, somehow, the youngest sports memorabilia expert in the history of Sotheby's, where he presides over the largest sports auction ever held until finally succumbing to the promise of Internet riches...just a few months too late.
Through his occasionally heartbreaking, often hilarious, and ultimately uplifting struggle to become a big city writer, Goodwillie has become something more: an important voice of the lost generation he so eloquently depicts.
About the Author
David Goodwillie's fiction has appeared in Swink, BlackBook, and other publications, and he is a contributor to the essay collection My Father Married Your Mother (Norton, Spring 2006). He lives in New York City.