I am of the strong opinion that authors should never make comparisons between their own writing and the work of other writers, particularly more well known ones. When I received Ryan Moehring’s first collection of stories, The Fried Twinkie Manifesto, it was accompanied by a letter explaining the book’s success and development thus far, and also claims that this new author was breaking into the humor genre with the gusto of “the big boys.” As I began my read, I braced myself for the shocking humor of Sedaris and Klosterman.

It’s always a mistake to have expectations. These stories simply weren’t all laugh-out-loud funny. But because I was set-up to think that they were, I spent the greater part of the first half of the book not appreciating them for what they are: quirky, witty, insightful, and, at times, soulful.

As I read the essays out loud to my husband on our recent road trip, we did find a similarity between Moehring and Klosterman: he’s offensive. I did anticipate a grimace here or there at foul language and vulgar references; but certain chapters, for instance, the section on failed prenuptial rules, made even my husband (who, like most young men can appreciate the truly off-color) shake his head.

In the category of humor, if you’re not dirty you’re not funny. I don’t understand it, but I am aware that it’s the standard. But Moehring takes his offenses beyond vulgarity. Displeased with his so-called “white trash” and religious upbringing, he rags on his family and experiences so hard that it made me wonder if the main motive of the books wasn’t just to piss-off his parents. Really, the over-the-top rants bear the appearance of someone trying so hard to convince you of something that they end up trying too hard for you to believe it.

Moehring is a talented writer. He seems to understand writing, knows how to create a scene, and can recount events concisely and with clarity. Because he has a handle on all this, I did enjoy parts of his book. A lot of insights did draw a chuckle; and the more serious parts really made me think. His vulnerability and willingness to share the good and the bad do make him relatable–though at some points I felt I learned a little bit more about him than I should ever like to know.

Moehring told me that he is working on a new book already, and I am eager to see what comes from this new author. I hope with his next book, he embraces what he truly is–a poised, observant, and serious writer–and that he does so with the charisma and discipline to create a new collection that captures that.

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