Cover image for Important things that don't matter
Important things that don't matter
Amsden, David.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2003]

Physical Description:
266 pages ; 22 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.0 8.0 78289.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A provocative, moving, darkly funny portrait of family and divorce, a boy and his father, the eighties and nineties, and sex and intimacy issues that raises vital questions about a generation just now reaching adulthood.

Important Things that Don't Matter

The truth is, I really have no idea how everything I'm about to tell you happened, or why really -- how Dad of all people started diluting my thoughts lately, tugging at certain moments, making cameo appearances at the most inopportune times.

Like I'm in a bar, just trying to have a beer, and all of a sudden I'm seven again, in that bar with Dad. A girl reaches over and puts her hand up into my hair, and I just want her to stop, to get off, to go away -- you guessed it, there's Dad, somewhere.

Maybe a psychoanalyst would say it was the divorce, or Dad and the cocaine, and that I was too young then, but that I'm twenty now, and that people are prone to oppress and repress and suppress and regress and digress -- maybe he'd tell you it's part of "a larger syndrome." But I'm not sure people like that quite know what they're saying. Trust me. I've been to them.

So Dad's around lately. That's it. And I want to tell you things, throw fragments your way that I barely understand. Because it's just funny, flat out, the way someone you don't even know can get up in your face, tweak things that should be so ordinary. Or I think it's funny. Maybe you will too. Maybe you'll laugh. Maybe you won't believe a word. Maybe you'll wish you had my number so we could go out, share things. Maybe you'll know something I don't, and can tell me. Maybe --

I'm just hung up on him, on Dad, on parents in general. So many of them, it seems, act like such children these days. Some of us are adults now, and I can't help but wonder: What's going to happen?

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Amsden's debut novel is about a boy's complex relationship with his often absent father. The boy (never named) narrates the novel from the vantage point of a 20-year-old, looking back on his troubled past with his father, Joe. At five, he is in an airport with his mother while they wait for his father, who is hours late, to pick them up. His parents' divorce separates him from his father somewhat, but he still observes his father's drinking and drug habits. As he grows up, he learns to disregard the "things that don't matter," such as his father's destructive behavior, his second marriage to a younger woman, and even the birth of his second son. The narrator's resentment only comes out in spurts--his furious rejection of Joe's wife's daughter when she wants to call him her brother, and his plan to force his father to take him to an expensive seafood restaurant and "bankrupt" him--but when his anger appears, it is powerful and heartbreaking. Conversational and tough, the novel's observant narrator is bound to captivate readers. --Kristine Huntley

Publisher's Weekly Review

Amsden's solid but unremarkable debut novel visits familiar coming-of-age landmarks as it tells the story of a boy growing up with divorced parents. At age five, the anonymous narrator witnesses the end of his parents' troubled marriage: his father, an alcoholic and cokehead who drifts from one dead-end job to another, ditches his mother to take off with sexy young Shirley, a former Playmate and friend of the family who goes from being houseguest to home wrecker. The boy lives mostly with his mother in their suburban Maryland home; Mom runs a graphic design agency and prospers, giving her son some sense of stability. Dad, on the other hand, continues to change jobs as often as he changes girlfriends, and takes his son on such dubious field trips as visits to the pub and his girlfriend's apartment in the projects-all while continuing to drink and get high regularly. As the boy negotiates his parents' two worlds, he's also absorbed in the usual preadolescent and teenage dramas; he has his first girlfriend, dumps her and plays the field with other girls who are themselves the scarred victims of no-fault divorce. The narrator's voice is a likable mixture of bewilderment and tentative black humor, and some of the scenes-especially those involving the exuberantly dysfunctional father-are well cast and darkly ironic, but the book as a whole doesn't gather much momentum. Agent, Melanie Jackson. (Apr.) Forecast: Amsden is another precocious whiz kid whose age (23) will probably win him attention. Some readers will also recognize him as a chronicler of Manhattan nightlife for New York magazine. Three-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Amsden, a contributing writer at New York magazine, launches his fiction debut with the story of a five-year-old more deeply affected by his parents' divorce than it would appear. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Important Things That Don't Matter A Novel Chapter One Up Late with Dad and Shirley Dad will be waiting at the gate. That was the plan. It was late, well past midnight, like the latest I'd ever known the world with eyes open. Me and Mom were exhausted from the flight, me letting loose these dizzying yawns every twenty seconds as the plane taxied in, the whites of Mom's eyes all stained with bloodshot tributaries. The tendons in my hand still stung from Mom's squeezing it the second the landing gear opened up -- she didn't let go until it was clear we were down, clear no one around her was burning to death. Mom hated takeoffs and landings, was convinced we all got only so many. You'd see this in her eyes at times, and not just when planes were involved -- this fear-stained look, like something tragic was coming right at her, right there nipping at her earlobes. I leaned my head on the little oval window, checked out the flat landscape: runways and windsocks, these sparks in the dark, going from two- to three-dimensional, thanks to the pinpoint flashing lights of white, green, blue, red. I looked at the lights until my eyes watered up, the colors blending inside them, forming these wild shapes. Then I'd have to blink and start over. Out in the distance you could see Dulles, all whitewashed and glowing, its roof like a frozen wave begging to crash. The plane stopped now, completely, fasten-seatbelt signs binged off, the overhead fluorescents flooded the cabin, making everyone's face tough to stomach: all green-yellow, pasty. Their eyes were gray. People getting their bags out from the overheads now, the silence was broken up by the cracking of knees, fingers, shoulders, toes, elbows, necks. "Sit tight, honey," Mom was saying, getting our things in order, putting my Crayolas back in their box -- "Do you want to hang on to the red?" "Yes." I had a thing for carrying the red one in my pocket. -- and now my He-Man coloring book, now my die-cast Corvette Stingray and the G.I. Joe sniper expert who was into using the car as a skateboard. All shoved into her purse, next to her how-to-make-your-business-work book, or her how-not-to-stress-out-while-making-your-business-work book, or whatever she was reading, which always had something to do with self-improvement. I kept busy by smashing my forehead against the plastic window, feeling my nose turn to Play-Doh. I pretty much thought about half the universe in terms of Play-Doh then. In school we'd started playing with it, making Play-Doh alphabets, each of us assigned one letter. Twenty-five of us in the class, my name starting with an A, I got to do A and Z. This made all the kids wish I was dead, but really, I could've cared less about the letters -- I just liked eating the stuff, how it got all salty. You know, like ocean-flavored bubble gum. "Stop that," Mom was saying. I was now pressing my open mouth against the window, inflating my cheeks. Drawing smiley faces on the plastic with my tongue. "I want to be home." "Well, licking that filthy window's not gonna bring home here any quicker," Mom pointed out. - - - Now Mom was saying come on, let's go, said we're ready and took my hand, led me out into the aisle in front of her. Mom kept her hand on my head as we skittered down the aisle, having to stop every second for old people, who all had to look at me with the same glazed empty smile. The stewardesses looked as sleepy as Mom standing in the doorway, their makeup starting to flake off, smeared like someone sent them through a carwash by mistake, waving good-bye, sleep well, bye, bye now, good-bye. To me one went -- "Sleep tight." -- and the other, squatting down, went -- "Don't let the bedbugs bite, you cutie." -- which always freaked me out, that little rhyme. I mean, do you know anyone who has any idea what bed-bugs are? And, say you're asleep, how can you make sure they don't bite you? It's funny how when you get older, you realize half of what adults tell you as a kid is meant to turn you into a crazed insomniac by the time you hit twenty. I'm twenty now, so trust me. I know what I'm talking about. - - - The tunnel leading to the gate was even brighter than in the plane, and cold. We'd been in Florida, so this was my first time feeling cold in about a week. At five years old this is a substantial chunk of time. We'd been visiting a friend of Mom's, some lady she knew in high school who was stuck in Florida because her dad was about to die. You know, because old people are always going down to Florida to die. It was all sad, I know, but I didn't really understand. Every time we went to the hospital to visit the dad I'd be stuck in some room with a thousand other kids my age, some day-care center run, as they all are, by a psychotic old lady. Not that I cared -- there were enough crayons and construction paper in there that after fifteen minutes I'd have no idea where I was. "Oh it's cold," I was saying. "I thought you told winter to go away before we got back," Mom said, taking me by the hand. "I did." "Are you sure?" "I did, I swear." "Then why's it still cold?" "I don't know. When are we going to be home?" "I know, sweetie," she said, all patting my head. "Real soon. I'm tired too." Important Things That Don't Matter A Novel . Copyright © by David Amsden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Important Things That Don't Matter: A Novel by David Amsden All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.