To get this out of the way up front, I think many of these stories in Davy Rothbart’s collection of essays are a tad bit exaggerated at best, certainly not a first for non-fiction writing (see James Frey, JT LeRoy, Margaret Seltzer and a slew of other recent authors). But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Rothbart is a fantastic storyteller and My Heart is an Idiot is entertaining from page one and keeps the momentum all the way to the final essay. Rothbart is probably best known as the creator of Found magazine, a periodical that collects and publishes found notes, lists and other orphaned scraps of writing sent in from across the country.
As billed in the title, these stories primarily focus on the author’s ill-fated romances, from falling in love with and agreeing to road trip across the southwest with a girl he’s never met before to carrying on a months-long romance with a voice that started out as simply a random dirty call (to the author, not from him). But some of the most compelling stories in My Herat is an Idiot have nothing to do with Rothbart’s romantic blunders, like The Strongest Man in the World. One of the book’s longer essays, it focuses on a relationship the author started with a sometime contributor to his magazine, a young man from the Midwest who ended up in prison convicted of killing his best friend’s girlfriend, a conviction that Rothbart uncovers is scarred with plenty of unanswered questions and highly dubious claims from the prosecution.
Whether some of the stories in this collection actually happened to the author as he details them may be in question (at least by me), but the book is still highly entertaining. There is hardly a dull essay in the batch.