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Just before summer dawns, we can always expect the arrival of the beach read. According to seasonal marketing plans, certain clichés are preserved. Readers stash hot new titles in their weekend totes. Pages are quickly greased with SPF. Kernels of sand become trapped inside, grinding against the inner spine. Some imply that these books are elementary in content or style, yet still pleasantly edible. Despite its publication date, the beach read label does not define John Glynn’s debut. Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer refashions the epic summer tale, dosed with lyrical brawn, grace, and ingenuity.
Out East is a story of the in between. Glynn reveals his post-collegiate life, a time when he hadn’t yet settled into full-blown adulthood. Nearing thirty, he was single, living in New York City and thriving as an editorial assistant at Scribner. After a near-death car accident and the passing of his beloved grandmother, Kicki, Glynn entered emotional paralysis. Gut-wrenching anxiety flares and rounds of loneliness occurred daily. He writes, “At night my thoughts turned dark: I was surrounded by friends, but deeply lonely. Time seemed to pass with no meaning. I worried that life would only get worse. That all the good things–friends, family, nice apartment, good job–would eventually disappear and I would be left with nothing.” While the frosty, bleak winter carried on, John’s friend, Mike, presented him with an offer: a summer share spot in Montauk, NY. “It’s summer camp for adults,” a co-worker told him. John didn’t feel worthy of such a privilege, but had been recently gifted a small inheritance from his grandmother. “Kicki would have wanted you to,” his mother had even urged him.
Glynn recalled the Montauk of his childhood, a place of “fish shacks and sweeping and majestic” beaches. His experience as a twenty-something, though, proved to be quite different. Packed in with sometimes more than twenty other residents, Glynn’s weekends were a haze of beaching, pregaming, barhopping and the inevitable hangover therapy the next morning. Amid party time, John grapples with his single status and possibly finding romance with a fellow share-mate, another male. Glynn reveals, “I was so unbalanced, I could barely breathe. These feelings–of love, infatuation, blind euphoria–were entirely foreign to me. I had always anticipated that they’d come attached to a woman.”
Out East chronicles one man’s coming out. Equally important, this memoir surveys one man’s maturation. Of Kicki’s funeral, Glynn writes, “I felt awkward in the new suit and worried it was too large and boxy. I tended to avoid wearing formal clothes in general because they made me feel like an imposter, a kid playing dress-up.” With beautiful, radical honesty, Out East recounts Glynn’s journey to finally filling out that grown-up suit. It may not always be a comfortable fit, but it certainly looks handsome.
Out East personifies summer magic. When the sun meets our skin, instinctively, we long to play. Quite like children we believe, if only for a moment, in the possibilities that summer can promise. This wonder is the fuel for John’s awakening and the gorgeous backbone of Out East. Glynn writes, “The idea that you could travel through life with someone seemed like the zenith of happiness. Life, like a double-sticked popsicle, was meant to be cracked down the middle. Here, I’d say. One half for you, one half for me. Red’s my favorite flavor, too. When you finish, keep the stick. There’s a joke written on it.” Summer or not, sharing a cool pop with John Glynn’s remarkable Out East will nudge you to believe in believing once again.
Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer
By John Glynn
Grand Central Publishing
Hardcover, 9781538746653, 256 pp.