A journalist attempts to reclaim his flagging manhood through hunting.
Online family-issues guru (manofthehouse.com) Heimbuch (Chasing Oliver Hazard Perry, 2010) roots this book in his desire to suddenly live up to the manly Midwestern values of his avid hunter father, who one day gave his son a 12-gauge shotgun as a gift. Heimbuch had been outdoorsy—fly fisherman, gearhead and L.L. Bean enthusiast—but had never ventured into gun-toting territory. The author’s quest to validate his manhood via pheasant hunting soon goes beyond the father-son issues into more of a personal challenge to break out of his blandly routinized life as a small-time reporter and dutiful husband. Along the way, the book derives its comedic appeal from Heimbuch’s built-in liberal defenses against the largely conservative gun culture he had to force himself to confront. In fact, his inaugural visit to the NRA’s Rivers of Freedom convention became the perfect opportunity to mine his combination of disgust and wide-eyed fascination with this gun-nut spectacle (complete with an appearance by gun-loving former rocker Ted Nugent) for comedic gold. The conflicted author then headed out for the wilds of Iowa to test his newfound resolve as a pheasant hunter, and he devotes the second half of the book to the unintentional humor that naturally comes out of a newbie hunter chasing elusive feathered creatures around in a forest. But Heimbuch doggedly persevered, and in the end, his noble quest to become a successful gamesman narrowly avoids anticlimax. Although the book essentially thrives on self-deprecating humor, there are some well-illustrated lessons about the unexpected benefits of stepping outside comfortable workaday routines to get a clearer perspective on one’s potential as a human being.
A lightweight but entertaining seriocomic search for selfhood.