The Great White Whale Dick bills itself as the story of Trainor’s return to college after time spent volunteering in the post-Katrina clean-up. Most of the book deals with college life and the drama that comes with it- fights with housemates, relationships falling apart, struggling with classes, all set to the backdrop of Temple University, the “education oasis in the ghetto.” Nothing is off-limits, which may be both the book’s blessing and downfall.
The Great White Whale Dick is a cross between a private journal and a collection of essays. It’s intimate and interesting, but voyeuristic. There’s a graphic level of detail, especially when describing one of the author’s many sexual encounters. The obsessive style of writing may be owed in part to the writer’s propensity for Adderall-driven writing binges, something else that is described without hesitation in the book. The length of the book, 353 pages, combined with the subject matter, ensure it’s not a casual, fun read. Some parts can be difficult to get through- for instance, “Brendan Kash is a Thieving Sack of Shit,” reads more like a police report. There are (often grammatically incorrect) words on the page, but not much else coming through.
Reading through the memoir, it seems as though the author is his harshest self-critic and biggest fan. Much of the book comes off as a self-congratulatory record, a written pat on the back. There’s a lot of inner analysis and self-probing, as well. The reader gets a sense of working through Trainor’s problems with him, giving the book depth and appeal. The memoir culminates with “Cheese Sandwiches”, the story of the Trainor’s DUI and subsequent stay in jail. Instead of being one of the most significant parts of the book, it’s a missed opportunity. The author reflects on his ways and promises to change, but the writing seems insincere, more like a convenient way to end a memoir after an all-nighter on Adderall.