This is set up chronologically, with sections on Junior High, High School, College, New York, and Adulthood. Each story starts off with “Dear (name):” and then runs with whatever bad behavior he's apologizing for – sometimes for many, many pages. Yes, through the course of this you get a pretty good scope of his history (and the sense that he's a bit of a jerk with substance abuse issues), but it's all one long icky read. Honestly, about a third of the way through this I was thinking “this guy must be doing one of those 12-step programs!” and he's working on step 8-9 where he'd make “a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all” and using this to at least apologize … however, that doesn't get mentioned or even hinted at anywhere in here, so I guess this is just some sort of “airing of dirty laundry” in print. The author has been writing for several magazines and web sites, and he notes in the Acknowledgments that “many of the apologies in this book were first published on The Awl” (web site), so I guess he's decided that the embarrassing personal story is just “his niche”. Ewwww.
Now, I almost never “give up” on a book, but about half way through this I was seriously considering not finishing it. Fortunately, the stories from his later life are less “triggering” than those of his earlier life … and some of them even get into “poignant” territory (such as those around his father's death … like picking up some comedies for the family to watch when they were basically waiting for his dad to finally succumb to brain cancer – one of which ended up being Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, which involves a sub-plot about Allen's character beliving he has a brain tumor).
The subject matter of these stories is quite varied, from apologizing to friends of his parents' about what he wore to their son's bar mitzvah, to apologizing to Bon Jovi for having thrown empty beer cans over the rocker's fence and onto his lawn. There's apologizing for a graduation prank, and apologizing for dramatically spitting out the hamburger he'd been eating in a Paris bistro, when he discovered that it was made with horse meat. There's apologies to garage owners, gals at school dances, neighbors, and even to his son for letting him get lost in the park. Again, the earlier the stuff was, the more horrific the emotional load in the telling … it's easier to let tales of him being an idiot around c-list rock stars (when writing for Vibe magazine) slide out of one's head, than those of him forcing grade school friends to “worship” a poster of Jim Morrison.
I have a hard time imagining how one gets to a place where the idea of writing these vignettes seems like a good idea, except, as noted, as some obsessive part of a 12-step program. Perhaps he should have written a post-script to the main part of the book apologizing to the those folks who actually read it. One would really have to be a particularly odd sort of a voyeur to enjoy this … although I guess there are probably those out there who fit that profile … but it's not me, and I'm guessing it's not you.
Not surprisingly, Public Apology appears to be out of print (except for the ebook edition), and it's available on-line for as little as a penny in the after-market hardcover. As noted, it's in the dollar stores as well, but I don't expect anybody to go out looking for this. I guess we can chalk this up to “I read it so you don't have to” … you're welcome.