Jonathan Ames ended his reading last Wednesday afternoon like he ends all of them – with the Hairy Call.
According to Ames, the author of three novels and two essay collections who read at the College as part of ink’s Visiting Writers Series (VWS), the call was invented by his childhood friend Jon “Fat” Eder when they were in fourth grade.
“We used it on the playground to protect ourselves when we were being attacked by more normal children,” Ames said before letting it rip – three times – for the audience: to the left, down the middle, and to the right.
He claims the sound possesses extraordinary healing powers, crediting it with curing both his back spasms and his once-elevated testicle.
“The reading was fantastic,” Sarah Maloney, president of ‘ink’ and senior mathematics major, said. “(It) had everyone laughing, but Ames was sure to include more serious writing.”
An example of this “more serious writing” was not the essay Ames closed his reading with, “I Shit My Pants in the South of France,” an exercise in what Ames called “scatological participatory journalism.”
It was a piece Ames penned when he was a columnist for the New York Press during the mid-’90s, which he included in his collection of essays “What’s Not To Love?: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer.” It chronicles his visit to a strange doctor in SoHo for his first colonic – a water enema incurred for the purpose of cleansing the beleaguered colon – and the aftermath, noting that it was “completely autobiographical, however embarrassing that is.”
As he had a lubricated tube inserted into him, which Ames said conjured images of Laurence Olivier in “Spartacus,” he recounted an adventure from 1983 when he spent the summer taking classes in the South of France.
After drunkenly buying a rank tuna sandwich from a dirty gentleman outside a caf?, Ames was overtaken by wrenching stomach cramps that ended with an “(explosion of) diarrhea like a ruptured sewer main.”
“I should’ve said beforehand,” Ames added, “if talking about these things is in any way offensive, that was not my intention. There are people who can’t get enough of scatological humor, and those who don’t like it at all.”
“I liked the scatological humor,” Linda Gallant, class of 2005 alumna who returned to the College for the reading, said. “It was excellent.”
But, for Jonathan Ames, this type of subject matter is nothing out of the ordinary. Ames has built a reputation for himself on the bizarre, on kink, on the scatological, on things that we would find obscene if they weren’t so damned amusing.
After all, this is a man who has had his own one-man off-off Broadway show, “Oedipussy,” appeared as an extra in the cinematic, pornographic piece “C-Men,” and fought in one amateur boxing match as “The Herring Wonder.”
“I ate a lot of herring because I figured it was a strong fish, surviving in cold water,” Ames said. “And I also figured I would have herring breath, which would keep my opponent back.”
Ames also read from his latest novel, “Wake Up, Sir!,” a piece he said builds on the tradition of “Don Quixote” – in which the title character read so many novels about nobility that he thought he should be a knight – and P.G. Wodehouse – in whose books the main character has a valet, Jeeves, who follows him everywhere – in that Ames’ main character thinks that, after reading too much Wodehouse, he deserves a valet.
“Ames used his understanding of timing and a charming British accent to bring the scenes to life,” Maloney added. “I was impressed by the scope of his writing.”
– Next on the docket for the VWS: Jess Row, author of “The Train to Lo Wu,” will be reading Nov. 9 at 3 p.m. in the New Library Auditorium.