If you've read the women's sports pages of The New York Times -- or the Style Section as it's sometimes known -- you've probably encountered the lifestyle reporting of Rick Marin. The Toronto native is a smart, prescient and often funny writer, which makes it a shame that he decided to publish a version of his Red Shoe diaries.
Perhaps it's too easy to reproach a memoir for being self-indulgent. But if you haven't lived through events on par with, say, China's cultural revolution or the dissolution of a popular situation comedy, it seems you might want to explain why you think 284 pages of your sex life is relevant or, more to the point, worth $24. In all fairness, Marin's manwhore journal is about more than just bagging babes; it's about confronting personal obstacles and growing up in a time of extended adolescence. It's also a showcase for Marin's wit and musings, which are by turns hilarious and agonizingly smug.
Cad chronicles Marin's romantic rsum from a brief marriage borne of his need for a work visa to a final and bittersweet arrival at the cad killing fields of true love. While working as a freelance magazine writer in New York, Marin runs the gamut of one-night stands, monthlong stints and protracted breakups with "sort of girlfriends" including book publicists, medical students, inappropriately aged editorial assistants, even a Los Angeles astrologist. Common themes include Marin's propensity for women whose emotional and cultural sensibilities foster his contempt, condescension and flight complex. Of course, this does not impede his indulgences in their bed sheets.
Cad sits solidly within the milieu of the male confessional -- the "I-was young,-badly-behaved,-and-am-now-contrite" sort of thing. Compared with the similarly oriented novels of Nick Hornby, Marin's repentance feels rather disingenuous. Of course his deadpan irony is often hilarious. Take, for example, a personal ad he considers placing after a long, dry stretch: Moderately insensitive bachelor, 29, seeks vivacious female with highly developed sense of irony. Should have seen at least three Fassbinder films, without liking them. No vegans or spiritually-inclined respondents, please. Appreciation of P.G. Wodehuose, Pee Wee Herman and lingerie an asset.
However unwittingly, Marin seems to embody the ethos of a frat boy with a Harper's subscription. This voice is palpable in his loving references to his strategic maneuvers on the battlefield of carnal conquest, which includes its own lexicon. Quite frankly, the use of "closing" to connote completion of a sexual rout is as nauseating as anything offered by the men of The Man Show. Subsequently, this male's confessional reads more like: I was young, badly behaved and am sorry but damn I was hot!
And yet, despite my better judgment, Marin almost drafts me into the gender wars with a few of his stands for the male species, particularly in regard to the presumed neatness of females and the tendency of some bachelorettes to craft intimacy Marshall Plans after the first bonk.
Cad is a book to be checked out of the library, read in small doses and promptly returned. The ending -- a confrontation with the death of a parent -- is honest, and almost profound enough to recompense for the author's inveterate smugness.
-- John Dicker