There are books you enjoy. There are books you feel enriched by. And there are books you have to stop reading because you’re laughing too much as you take photos of quotes and send them to four different WhatsApp groups. R Eric Thomas’s Here For It, is that kind of book.
Known for his snappy articles for Elle.com, Thomas has turned his wit back on his own life and written a series of funny essays charting his journey – think David Sedaris with more thirsty Obama content. If you know his Elle column Eric Reads The News you’ll be familiar with the rapid fire blend of commentary, pop obsessions and celebrity shade. It’s like having brunch with your smarter, faster, wittier friend.
Thomas is one of those people who always feels on the outside looking in. The gay kid in church. The black kid in the white neighbourhood. The black kid who’s not black enough for the other black kids (the search for his own “blackness” is a theme of the book). That outsider viewpoint lets him, to quote La Cage aux Folles, “live life on an angle” and his writing is richer for it.
And the book is laugh out loud funny. Thomas is a comic with excellent timing, knowing when to land a joke and when to push a point home. The journey through his life is like reading the edited highlights, or watching the sit-com based on his stories – surely this has been optioned by Netflix already? The essays cover politics, religion and race as Thomas tap dances over thorny topics, pausing just long enough to land a point before moving on.
It helps to know your Kanye from your Marie Kondo as the references pile one on top of the other in a Jenga tower of pop cultural codes. But even if one or two fly by you, there are more jokes on the way. The result is a book that finds lightness in heavy topics, and humour in the mundane.
Here For It comes to a close with discussions of faith and sexuality (another major theme in his writing) and a recurring evocation of the Whitney Houston movie The Preacher’s Wife, as Thomas settles into married life with his Presbyterian minister husband – a happy ending for the awkward boy we met at the start of the book.
Through all the stories there is a clear, ringing note of hope and positivity, and a message to embrace the moment, live in the now, be present. The book’s subtitle is “how to save your soul in America”, which is a bold statement in the current climate but maybe a good laugh is exactly what we need.
By Chad Armstrong
Here For It, or, How to Save Your Soul in America by R Eric Thomas is available now from Penguin Random House, or your local independent bookseller.
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