I feel like I should have announced this earlier. January’s Book of the Month, for all none of you that are following along with Big G’s Book Club, was Aziz Ansari’s surprisingly difficult to find book: Modern Romance. Let me tell you something, the guy can move books, because that book took forever to find (or so I’m told, it was a christmas present). Regardless, let me tell you what I thought.
The book itself is exactly what it sounds like, in investigation into the inner workings of contemporary romance by world renown comedian Aziz Ansari. However, rather than simply write down his thoughts, my boy Aziz actually went out and did some research, like a pretty substantial amount of research. He actually teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg (autocorrect, promptly back the fuck off), and held focus groups, dug up old research, and gathered responses from reddit (one of these things is not like the others). Together they have created, essentially, a doctoral thesis on the ins and outs of relationship in the modern age, albeit with more dick jokes (Disclaimer: I don’t know really anything about doctoral theses and am therefore unqualified to distinguish if they contain greater of fewer quantity of dick jokes).
On a surface level, this is the perfect book for me. I love Aziz Ansari, he is a hilarious dude, and I love everything he’s in. I love science, and I’m privy to books that explore and analyze topics in depth, like Hot Zone, or Guns, Germs, And Steel. And as a single male in my early twenties, I have a vested interest in understanding the ins and outs of relationships. So naturally it ended up at the top of my reading list. But what did I think?
Overall the book blends Aziz’s comedy and the scientifically rigorous information together pretty well. Tonally it borrows a lot (and I mean A LOT) of elements from his most recent work, some times note for note. Which is understandable. It’s clear that Aziz is grappling with the same issues that he brings up in the book, like how to find a romantic partner, when to settle down, all that jazz that keeps coming up in my Selena Gomez Radio Station. He makes it explicitly clear in the book, but even just watching his new show Master of None (which is great btw) it’s clear that the man is thinking ’bout some heavy stuff. The book though is great. It’s an easy read, and one of those books that you really look forward to reading. Aziz is actually a pretty compelling writer, which makes sense given that’s his thing.
More than anything though, I actually learned quite a bit. Like, I’m not about to go HAM and start dating all the ladies but still, it was informative. Plus he raised a bunch of interesting ideas about emerging adulthood, and the paradox of choice, which personally I just thought were pretty cool. YOU HEAR THAT AZIZ, SOME NO NAME BLOGGER FROM VERMONT THINKS YOU’RE PRETTY COOL. Sorry, but I’m pretty sure the only way to commune with Aziz Ansari is to angrily shout things from the roofs of tall buildings. As always I gotta give props to a guy who can be both teach you something and make you laugh in the same sentence.
That’s not to say the book was perfect. I have some critiques, for example, I don’t know why, but I don’t like the title “Modern Romance”. Something about it just seems hokey and cliche to me. He also says it about a million times in the course of the book, at which point I found my compelled to say, “haha! That’s the name of the book!”. A lot of my critiques have me sounding like my old english teacher Ed Darling. The margins were too big. Is that double spacing? It should be 1.5. There’s too many unnecessary words. My name is Ed Darling, not Ed Dorkling. His name is Ed and his initials are ED.
How did we get talk about Ed Darling? For real though, I wish it was longer. And by that I mean a couple things. A) more dick jokes, and B) a little more depth. Granted, he went pretty in to the things he talks about. For example, I didn’t really need to hear about his experiences masturbating into a silicon egg in Japan (It was for research!). I don’t know, maybe it’s my engineering bias, but I wanted more numbers! Again, caveat: he had a lot of numbers. But on the whole I felt like the discussion had a lot of qualitative information, but not enough quantitative. And really this is my beef with sociology in general, not that they don’t do good work, but I feel like the quote “soft” sciences are just that, too soft. Although again, this is a comedian were talking about, his whole deal is being qualitative. Aaaand here I am being all wishy-washy. Really my complaints have nothing to do with Modern Romance, or Aziz Ansari and get into the debate and the relative importance/limits of qualitative/quantitative data. I should just stop because all of my complaints are dumb and rambley… sorry about that.
In the end it was a great book. Contrary to any whining you read earlier, Aziz Ansari manages to raise some really interesting points, make some really solid arguments, and just generally be funny. It borrows a lot of material from his other shows, which is to say that he talks about his own life, but I would hardly consider that a bad thing. Frankly, it’s just a good book, you should go read it. I’d hurry though, I hear they sell out fast.
For those of you that are interested, next month’s book will be Contact, by Carl Sagan. I look forward to complimenting it a bunch and then making a bunch of weird incoherent complaints about that book too!.