JEFF, ONE LONELY GUY (Amazon Publishing), by Jeff Ragsdale, David Shields, and Michael Logan, is a crowd-sourced anthology of American melancholy. In October 2011, Ragsdale, a University of Washington alum and the eponymous lonely guy, posted flyers all around New York City with his phone number. New Yorkers—and later, people from all over the world—proceeded to deluge his phone with calls and texts, treating it like a digital confessional.
Shields and Logan compiled the phone transcripts and texts (along with Ragsdale’s responses) into a sort of voyeuristic experiment. The book lacks narrative, chronology, and many other attributes one typically associates with the word book. But as Shields—a UW prof and author of the novel-assassinating manifesto Reality Hunger—writes in the introduction, “This is the authentic sound of human beings, at ground level, often in economic freefall, trying to connect in whatever way possible…. This is America singing—singing a dirge.”