When a dude who has deftly edited everyone from Walter Kirn to Alan Richman to James Ellroy over the course of a fourteen-year stint at your favorite men’s general-interest magazine turns around and writes his own book, you read it. You read it because the author, GQ’s deputy editor Michael Hainey, is a supremely talented writer, editor, and interviewer (just see this month’s cover story. You read it because no less than John Jeremiah Sullivan described it as “a book whose heartbreak and humor, in the true Irish tradition, can’t be untangled.” And you read it because the book’s subject is one that any man can relate to: the story of a son trying to learn more about his father, to understand him as a man.
What you find in the pages of After Visiting Friends is more or less what you’d expect: some genius-level literary fusing of forms and functions. Words set into type as if chiseled from stone letter by letter. A decade’s worth of writing and reporting that takes the reader though a pastiche of narrative non-fiction, dreamy invented scenes, hard documents, and every writerly tool in-between. When you’re done reading this book you will want to be a better man, a better father, and a better writer.
The becoming a better man part is up to you.