The Gentleman Recommends: Jen Beagin – Daniel Boone Regional Library

The Gentleman Recommends: Jen Beagin

My butler says there are two types of people: those that clean and those that make messes. He believes the mess makers should learn from the cleaners. He gently broached the topic while I was having a corn-on-the-cob break. “Intriguing premise,” I hollered. I sat my cob on the ottoman my butler was nearly done shampooing. “I’m inclined to agree,” I said at a reasonable volume. I beckoned for the butter bucket. My butler fetched the bucket and prepared a fresh cob. “But how do we teach those messy folk?” Deep in thought, I scratched my chin with the cob and wiped my buttery hand on the carpet.

My butler sighed in agreement. “Perhaps you could read a book about tidying up.” He hurriedly added, “so that then you could share the message it conveys with those that need to hear it.” As an aside, he added that perhaps books about being self aware and improving one’s memory might also be of interest to me.

Pretend I'm Dead book cover

I slammed my cob on a beanbag. He was right. Before I could help folk learn not to make messes, I would have to learn about how to not make messes. I did an internet search for “novels from the perspective of a person who cleans up messes, please make the novel funny.” I found this article recommending “Pretend I’m Dead” by Jen Beagin, so I read the novel, and it was good and funny.

The narrator of “Pretend I’m Dead” not only does the world a service by cleaning the homes of those that thrive in our economy, she also volunteers at a needle-exchange program. Her generosity affords her the chance to meet a heroin addict she calls Mr. Disgusting. She becomes infatuated with Mr. Disgusting. They strike up a relationship which in many ways does not go well for the narrator. After writing a poem about our narrator’s heroin overdose, Mr. Disgusting disappears, but not before mentioning a fondness for New Mexico.

After her boyfriend’s disappearance, the narrator decides to change her life. She destroys her favorite vacuum cleaner and moves to New Mexico where she starts a business cleaning houses. In the process she will continue her hobby of staging photos while cleaning homes and doing a little light snooping. (The book’s cover is a photo taken during the author’s days as a house cleaner.) She’ll meet a psychic with bad news, and accept a gig spying on the psychic’s ex. She’ll worry she’s uncovered terrible crimes, and hang out with some hippies.

You’ll have fun reading this book, and maybe learn a little about what it’s like to love a recovering heroin addict and then move to New Mexico to share a duplex with a strange and delightful couple, just like my butler wanted me to learn.

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