03 February 2015 ~ 0 Comments

I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son

raised timid sonI really wanted to love this book. I made it about half way through before I realized that I probably wasn’t going to. I finished it hoping I’d grow to love it. It just didn’t happen. And that was disappointing because this is one of my favorite genres and I actually enjoy the off-kilter.

I think the problem I had with this book is the cohesion. It lacked it. I get that this was essays and they were all linked by an undertone of his family’s screwed-up-iness and, in theory, a study on masculinity. The problem is that I don’t think it did either well enough. Really, this should be two books. A true memoir would have been a treat from this author. It’s obvious he has an amazing story to tell, one that I would be honored to sit down and devour. The story is there, but the lack of flow doesn’t make this a true memoir. It wants to be a deep essay on masculinity and how that’s perceived, both internally and externally, but adding in the family situations just made it feel broken.

Overall, this isn’t bad for a first book. I think I was also a bit disappointed that instead of a book of new material, some was recycled from previous published articles by this author. I do realize this is done quite often, but the lack of focus in the book really distracted from his message.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy what I read. The stories themselves, taken in small bites, were decent enough. It’s just not what the description led me to believe I was getting into. It really does feel like the author is trying too hard. I liked it enough that I would pick up something else by this author, but I’d probably peek at other reviews first to see if he (or a really good editor) were able to pull it together into one unit.

Recommended for those die hard memoir folks, but just know what you’re getting into.

From one of the most ferociously brilliant and distinctive young voices in literary nonfiction: a debut shot through with violence, comedy, and feverish intensity that takes us on an odyssey into an American netherworld, exposing a raw personal journey along the way.Locked in battle with both his adult appetites and his most private childhood demons, Kent Russell hungers for immersive experience and revelation, and his essays take us to society’s ragged edges, the junctures between savagery and civilization. He pitches a tent at an annual four-day music festival in Illinois, among the misunderstood, thick-as-thieves fans who self-identify as Juggalos. He treks to the end of the continent to visit a legendary hockey enforcer, the granddaddy of all tough guys, to see how he’s preparing for his last foe: obsolescence. He spends a long weekend getting drunk with a self-immunizer who is willing to prove he has conditioned his body to withstand the bites of the most venomous snakes. He insinuates himself with a modern-day Robinson Crusoe on a tiny atoll off the coast of Australia. He explores the Amish obsession with baseball, and his own obsession with horror, blood, and guts. And in the piercing interstitial meditations between these essays, Russell introduces us to his own raging and inimitable forebears.I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son, blistering and deeply personal, records Russell’s quest to understand, through his journalistic subjects, his own appetites and urges, his persistent alienation, and, above all, his knotty, volatile, vital relationship with his father. In a narrative that can be read as both a magnificent act of literary mythmaking and a howl of filial despair, Russell gives us a haunting and unforgettable portrait of an America—and a paradigm of American malehood—we have never before seen

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Book count for 2015: 1

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