ON his 39th birthday, Montreal-based broadcaster and humorist Jonathan Goldstein took stock of what he has accomplished -- or rather, what he has not. Wife? Negative. Kids? Nil. House? Zip.
At the very least, he expected to have figured out which cologne suited him.
In this amusing comic diary, an extension of his popular CBC Radio program WireTap, Goldstein doles out canny observations on family, friends and the sorry state of his life in general.
Dividing his chapters into weeks and days, Goldstein takes us through the last year of his "youth" -- that is the year before the big 4-0. You can almost hear his deadpan intonation: "This is the sound of me turning 40."
Goldstein, who was born in New York, describes himself as "a comedian who doesn't necessarily make you laugh." Instead, he makes you cry. Or at least feel very, very depressed.
Forty-three weeks in, Goldstein confesses, "I've lately been feeling the overwhelming urge to lie down on the sidewalk on my way to walk to work."
One gets the sense, however, that reaching mid-life is not the only source of Goldstein's malaise. A hapless man-child who claims to have begun balding in Grade 8, he spends inordinate amounts of time pondering the postmodernism of the McRib sandwich or worrying about his lack of machismo.
A little bit lost, a little bit sad, Goldstein is never truly in sync with the world around him. He's like Woody Allen on Valium: less frenetic, but with more neuroses than you can shake a stick at.
Goldstein contends that it's the accumulation of all the little idiosyncrasies that "over time becomes this even weirder thing: who you are." To follow his logic, we are therefore more ourselves when we're 40 than when we're 30.
This is both comforting and horrifying for Goldstein, for whom approaching 40 is a tug-of-war of sorts. He wants to seize the day -- really, he does -- he just needs to think it through first. Plus, he's too busy leafing wistfully through his high school yearbook, or planning his retirement.
Given his alleged ability to procrastinate, it's amazing he already has two books to his name, the 2001 novel Lenny Bruce Is Dead and the 2009 religion parody Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bible!
Still, he's trying his best to live in the moment (or at least adjacent to it). As he nears the big day, despite being "religiously devoted" to his anxiety, Goldstein decides he's actually pretty comfortable with where he's at.
"[F]orty is like beginning the second half of a 12-inch sub," he writes. " During the first half, you feel like you have all the sandwich in the world, like there will never be a time where you aren't cramming sandwich into your face; but then comes the second half and the end is in sight. If it was a good sandwich ... you'll want to undo the top button of your pants and lie down. Hopefully in a good way."
With any luck, I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow won't leave you yearning for the lost days of your youth or worrying about what lies ahead, but feeling like you're halfway through a delicious meatball sub.
Lindsay McKnight is 40 and works in the arts in Winnipeg.
I'll Seize the Day Tomorrow
By Jonathan Goldstein
Penguin Canada, 231 pages