Reviews for Dirtbag, Massachusetts

by Isaac Fitzgerald

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Down and out in rural Massachusetts, San Francisco, New York City, and Burma. For a stretch in his 20s, Fitzgerald worked at an iconic biker bar in San Francisco called Zeitgeist. When business was slow, he read paperbacks from the used bookstore down the block. "All the big drinking books, by big loud men….Life could be tough,” he writes, “but it could also be the stuff of legend. Maybe I could write legends of my own, even though I was often too drunk to write anything down." The author begins this collection of personal legends with a line that he's been using for decades: "My parents were married when they had me, just to different people." What's more, they met at divinity school. In urban Boston, where his mother worked for the Catholic Church, the author experienced a happy but poor childhood. When he was 8, they moved back to the country, and "everything went to shit." Fitzgerald’s anger and despair about the violence and chaos of the years that followed are so deep that they form a kind of bass line to the text, carrying through to the end. In between, the kid racked up some legends. "The True Story of My Teenage Fight Club" is exactly what it sounds like, as the author describes the Fight Club–inspired group that got him and his buddies through the last years of the 20th century. In the title essay, Fitzgerald chronicles his escape from his unpromising hometown for an elite boarding school. "Maybe I Could Die This Way" is about his stint volunteering with a Christian relief organization in Southeast Asia. "The Armory" describes the author’s employment in the porn industry, where he learned a lot about honest communication—which leads him back to his childhood. "Imagine if violent homes came with safe words," he muses. Fitzgerald unearths inspiration from dirtbags of all shapes and sizes, sharing it with sincerity and generosity. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.