By Caitlin Mulrooney-Lyski
Grand Central Publishing
I imagine it’s hard to find a book that is as unique and funny and sad and true as Dave Bry’s debut memoir, “Public Apology: In Which a Man Grapples with a Lifetime of Regret, One Incident at a Time” (Grand Central Publishing Hardcover; March 19, 2013). It’s not often that someone so willingly lays themselves at your feet, exposing all of their faults and past wrong-doings. It may be intimidating and unnerving to face such earnestness. But let me reassure you, this book is funny, too!
I’m sure you’ll laugh at Dave’s throwing beer cans on John Bon Jovi’s lawn in protest of their shared New Jersey heritage. And you may even relate to how Dave’s sincere love of Led Zeppelin resulted in his singing the last verse of “Stairway to Heaven” into Wendy Metzger’s ear while slow dancing in junior high. You may blush at his collegiate hubris when he compares Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” to Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” in a History of Jazz class, remembering your own moments of infinite adolescent wisdom.
“Public Apology” can be touching in its innocent regrets, like when Dave fails to kiss the Girl from California and later, after she’s gone back home, learns he could have. Or when he wore sweatpants on his first date with his future wife. It can also be heartbreaking when Dave neglects to hear his cancer-ridden father call out for help one fateful afternoon. You may find yourself hating twenty-something Dave for being so irresponsible, and constantly drunk or high or both, and often heartless to the women in his life. But all those emotions are worth it, because you will find yourself loving the imperfect thirty-something Dave who stands before you.
After all of his childhood foibles, adolescent screw-ups, embarrassing missteps into the professional world, disastrous dates and relationship blunders, after his humiliating displays of immaturity in adulthood, Dave Bry is sorry. Things are different now. He’s a dad and a husband, and he understands so many things about life that he didn’t back then. His apologies are by turns hysterically funny and profoundly moving, ultimately adding up to a deeply human and poignant portrait of a man trying to come to grips with his past.
“Public Apology” is a stunningly, unexpectedly lovely book about what it means to be a screw-up, and a human, and ultimately, exactly how powerful contrition can be. You won’t be sorry you read it.
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Davy Bry was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1970 and raised in the neighboring town of Little Silver. He attended Red Bank Regional High School and then Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut before moving to New York City. For the past 18 years, he has written and edited stories about music for the magazines Vibe, ego trip and XXL. For the past three years, he has written about a wide variety of subject matter for the website The Awl. Dave lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.