If comedy equals tragedy plus time, then Zach Zimmerman must be a math wiz! Is It Hot in Here (Or Am I Suffering for All Eternity for the Sins I Committed on Earth)? collects 30 essays, listicles, object lessons, and meditations, each a punchy, soulful response to some of life's greatest letdowns: family strife, crisis of faith, trouble in love, the search for meaning, and the struggle to belong. Zimmerman is at his best when he recognizes these moments for the absurdities that they are. In "Salad," his conservative religious mother's disappointment with his gay atheist identity takes the form of a quiet, but pointed, battle of wills over his audacity to bring a green (non-mayo-based) salad to her traditional Thanksgiving dinner. In "The Twink on the Fire Escape," a wild night out escalates far beyond what Zimmerman imagined when he clumsily offered his phone number to his brunch host.
Many of these witty pieces first appeared in the New Yorker, including "Consider the Red Lobster" and "A Negative Review of My Negative Self-Talk." If there's one standout, though, it's "Drag Reveals," Zimmerman's reflections on performing an opening set for drag icon Alyssa Edwards, having deliberately ignored the entertainment juggernaut of RuPaul's Drag Race since its debut. It doesn't give away too much to say that the experience left him in tears over waiting so long to come around: "I cried because when you grow up feeling on the fringe, it's easy to reject an invitation to come inside." Is It Hot in Here? lands as a slender yet irresistible invitation to laugh about some pretty miserable stuff. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness