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How to Be Pretentious and Self-Involved

How to Be Inappropriate Falls Short of a Very Low Bar

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DANIEL NESTER'S BOOK How to Be Inappropriate has infuriatingly little reason to exist. This collection of rambling prose is packaged as the always-marketable "jerk memoir." While the book jacket would have you believe Nester is the Tucker Max of the New Yorker set, he falls short of that very low bar.

The book gives the impression that its author merely sifted the chaff from 15 years of writing journals and published any excerpt that could coherently fill two pages. That remainder sits on a spectrum between initially amusing one-note ideas (Catcher in the Rye rewritten by ESL students) and dire nonsense (an interview between Terry Gross and a robot Gene Simmons). The rest of the chapters do, as advertised, draw from their writer's life. These have the tenor of a joke without a punchline, as if Nester, a former web editor for McSweeney's, was unfamiliar with what makes a story humorous in the first place.

Even the baffling pointlessness of the content could be excused if it even attempted to live up to the book's title. "As for...the author presented in this book," Nester writes, "how does he define inappropriate? The author answers: I can only tell you my inappropriate stories." This may be so, but what follows barely register as stories, much less inappropriate ones. Instead, How to Be Inappropriate is a book too pretentious to be funny, too childish to be meditative, and so vacuous that even the boredom it elicits seems like too charitable a response.

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