What do Beto’s musings reveal about him as a politician? “Self-invention” was a watchword of the 1980s and ’90s, with all it implied about the fictions of identity, and Beto was no stranger to persona-shuffling—then as now. In his adolescent oeuvre, he tried his hand as a critic, punk and journalist. As time went on, he experimented as a musician, outlaw, idealist, family man, skater, fundraiser, politician and, maybe, leader of the free world.

But is Beto the writer any good? Sure, he was in high school, and his stuff is mostly record reviews and snark. But never mind the bollocks. O’Rourke genuinely understands genre and tone; he’s economical and makes good words work hard; he’s playful and takes chances; he can deftly conjure odd worlds, especially interior ones; he’s recessive—or maybe afraid to commit—as a narrator; he steers clear of the projection and judgment that muck up the work of many young essayists.

Reader, he had me at the opening paren.