Billed as an “unconventional memoir,” Proud Pants by Gregory G. Allen is actually a fictionalized version of the life of the author’s older step-brother, Johnny. Mr. Allen takes a step outside of his own reality and his comfort zone to get into Johnny’s shoes and details his life challenges and his ultimately failed struggles with addiction.
The reader first finds Johnny on his deathbed (too soon, only in his early 30′s), looking back at a life of disappointment and failure. The story is told in both his point of view, and those keeping vigil at his bedside. In the throes of his demise, Johnny will remember a key moment and describe without rancor what happened. Yet in each short chapter, the reader gets a hint of redemption — if only Johnny had been wanted as a youngster, if only he had taken a different turn when coming to the choices of his life, if only he had received help for his obvious learning disabilities, maybe he could have worked out his problems to become a productive member of society. He’s a likeable enough character. I found myself cheering him on and hoping for the best.
But this is not the case: even though there are minor upswings, Johnny spirals into self-destruction.
Proud Pants is a short read (in the author’s words, his brother’s life was “too long to be considered a short story and too short to be a novel”) yet is powerful in its brevity. Mr. Allen’s talent to draw the reader into the story using the language of the common folk, laced with crystal clear insight. There are many books written in this style (the addicted and emotionally broken looking back at a lifetime of mistakes), but none can match the convincing writing in Proud Pants.
I picked it up and read it straight through, a few times.
A must-read for those who are touched by dependence of any type.