Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?: Review

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[BOOKS]

Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?
by Kenneth M. Walsh
Magnus Books

Reviewed by Chael Needle

9781626010567 web

When I first met my current boyfriend, he had never heard of Everything But the Girl, the British band with Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, more popular in my day than his. So I had the pleasure of playing the band’s albums for him (sparkly CDs replacing my old cassettes from the eighties), and hoping he would discover the wonderfulness of each track.

He still thanks me for the introduction.

Readers of memoirs are quite like new boyfriends. They patiently listen to the writer’s old albums and either suffer through the trip down memory lane politely or suddenly, in a blast of bossa nova horns, get you. Thankfully, Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful? may become your new favorite groove.

In his memoir, writer, editor and blogger Kenneth M. Walsh displays a deft ability to map the geographic moves of his childhood and young adulthood (Detroit to Phoenix to L.A., D.C. to New York City, his Emerald City) alongside his moves toward self-actualization, with all of the pleasurable enlightenment and none of the tiresomeness that often comes with learning about someone else’s journey.

He mines his (and his family’s) foibles for comedy with the wry touch of Erma Bombeck. Adventures in babysitting and prank phone calling, dreaming of solving child abduction cases and becoming a hero—all are a comic complement of his later years, such as discovering his roommate is a former porn star or being adjudged a Denis Leary look-alike by a waiter in Times Square after passing for Ethan Hawke in his younger days. The memoir is smart and funny, with a masterful command of cultural references (did you ever think you would hear the name of Joyce Bullifant again?).

But he is unafraid to anchor each chapter with the emotional knots that did nothing to abate his social anxiety disorder—a testy relationship with his mother, fending off the homophobic voices that envelop every gay kid, his first fumblings toward love, a bittersweet reunion with his father.

Here’s Walsh on finding a large mass on his left testicle during a tennis physical and convincing himself that the mere fact of being gay was to blame: “I was different, so of course my privates were too, my adolescent brain reasoned. He could tell I was gay just by looking at me down there. In my shame and fear, I told no one. I diagnosed myself with testicular cancer—something pro tennis player Butch Waltz had been battling around this time—and convinced myself it was caused by my disgusting secret, that I was sexually attracted to other boys, the same secret that had now cost me my friends.…While the whole thing seems difficult to believe now—even for me—you’d be surprised what fear and self-loathing can do to a young boy’s mind. The experience was a living nightmare that colors the way I view the world to this day. It wasn’t until I was twenty years old that I finally got up the nerve to see a doctor.…”

And while HIV/AIDS only peppers the memoir, it’s this type of consciousness, Walsh realizes, that helps create an environment of risk for those whose lives have been devalued.

Chael Needle is Managing Editor of A&U.