There’s a reason I chose I Don’t Want To Think About It Right Now by Livingroom Johnston as Most Underrated Book. The author is a close personal friend of mine, and he is undeniably talented. Not only is he a brilliant weaver of words, the man is a spectacular artist. His Dali-esque paintings have the power to pull you into a world both surreal and expressionistic.
We’re not here to discuss Johnston’s paintings, but I bring them up because I want you to understand how ridiculously gifted this young man is. He’s one of the very few Black writers who’ve actually taken the time to sit and speak with me and offer some type of guidance and support in my own career. (That’s a topic for later discussion.) Yet for some reason, I don’t think that many people know or recognize his literary talent.
When I was first introduced to Johnston, we talked about I Don’t Want To Think About It Right Now as well as five previous books he’d written and created—by hand. Yes, that’s right. This industrious brother wrote five books—reprinting and binding copies by himself, by hand, at Kinko’s—and sold them out of his briefcase. When approached with a publishing deal, he wrote I Don’t Want To Think … in just three days.
I Don’t Want To Think About It Right Now tells the story of Harlem Farfromsquare, a peripheral character from his previous self-pubished works. There isn’t much in terms of plot, the novel is a slice of life story, one that details the struggles Harlem endures while trying to survive the crazy experience known as life. Part-time gigs, petty criminal acts, side hustles, and one-night stands are all part of Harlem’s existence. It’s honest, funny, and captures the spirit of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood.
Harlem is a simple, level-headed, stand-up kind of guy who would much rather go unnoticed, for in his head he’s always trying to figure things out. Things take a turn when Roskoe Jenkins [calls upon Harlem] to complete a task that could lead to trouble. Harlem is seduced by a fine, charming woman, and the rug which paid his bills is ripped from beneath his feet. The story unravels itself in a rock hard, semi-comical way.
Though the novel was praised by publications like Complex and Mass Appeal and even features a back cover endorsement from Mos Def, I don’t know that many people have ever read I Don’t Want To Think …, which is a shame because it really is a dope book. I even paid homage to the book and its characters in my own (now near-mythical) novel. That’s not a spoiler or anything—I told Livingroom I’d done it.
Humble as ever, my man just shook my hand and said, “Thank you. I can’t wait to read it.”