The Angst of the Everyday
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Published in: September-October 2020 issue.


by Evan James
Atria Paperback. 243 pages, $17.


“MAY I CONFESS to you a few things about myself?” Evan James asks in one of the 23 essays that make up I’ve Been Wrong Before, an assessment of his young adulthood, globe-trotting adventures in his thirties, and daddy issues. Recounted are early attempts to establish himself as “an actual journalist” and find himself as a writer. What stands out most clearly is the heartbreaking difficulty of a writer’s life: a patchwork of low-paying jobs, sublet apartments, fantasies of whoring himself out to slick ad agencies, and road trips made in a secondhand car with no air conditioning and a broken radio, made bearable only by listening to books-on-tape from a secondhand boom box.

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Michael Quinn reviews books for Publishers Weekly, for literary journals, and for his website at



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