“If anyone wants to talk about anything, call me (347) 469-3173." —Jeff, one lonely guy
Neon flyers with lonely Jeff’s number papered Lower Manhattan in October, prompting New Yorkers to actually stop for once, mid-stride, and wonder: Is this for real? Is it a prank? A reality TV show stunt? Or just some horny guy?
Turns out Jeff Ragsdale, a native Seattleite and unemployed comedian reeling from a bad breakup, was very much real, and willing to answer his phone. The day his flyers went up, he received about 100 texts and phone calls. Photos of his SOS went viral, and soon, the calls were long distance—from Spain, Iraq, Taiwan, Australia. He heard from Goldman Sachs traders, 60-year-old widows, moms with young children, ex-cons; the curious, the bi-curious, the forlorn and unemployed. To date, Ragsdale had received upwards of 65,000 texts and calls—and with the help of his former professor, Seattle author David Shields, and Michael Logan, he’s turned the cacophony of conversations into a new book, Jeff, One Lonely Guy, out today via Amazon Publishing.
“Michael Logan and I rearranged the material into this chorus of voices talking about the searing loneliness of existence in America at this moment,” Shields says in the introduction. “This is Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground told by and for and in the digital age… this is Occupy Loneliness.” It’s a fitting new release for Shields, a champion of nontraditional nonfiction whose 2010 book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, issues a rally cry that “reality cannot be copyrighted.” In turn, Jeff, One Lonely Guy is made up entirely of text messages, voice mails, and snippets of transcribed phone conversations, with Ragsdale’s life story providing the loosest of narrative threads to the whole sad, sexed-up “chorus.” Both the book and its maker, Amazon Publishing’s New York–based imprint, are challenging the rules of storytelling and publishing.
And no, it’s not a prank.
Jeff, One Lonely Guy
Out Mar 20 in paperback and e-book at amazon.com