The life and times of itinerant wanderer and vagabond extraordinaire David Pearlman, better known in some circles as Poppa Neutrino.
Longtime New Yorker contributor Wilkinson (Mr. Apology, 2003, etc.) writes about yet another creative eccentric. Early chapters are devoted to stories from Neutrino’s younger days, during which he engaged in fist fights in seedy bars; led a band of followers dubbed the “Salvation Navy” across the country while performing odd jobs to survive; and sailed across the Atlantic on a homemade raft in the company of his wife and two friends. The narrative is interspersed with the author’s interactions with Neutrino as well as their phone conversations. Among the highlights of their times together are visits to college and high-school football coaches to whom Neutrino attempts to pitch an idea that he believes will revolutionize football (it involves allowing quarterbacks and receivers to communicate during the action), as well as his attempt to build a new raft for a voyage across the Pacific. As the author points out, Neutrino is not necessarily the sort of man to draw the envy or admiration of others; much of his life has been spent struggling to survive generally self-imposed poverty. He is, however, an adaptable and intriguingly free spirit, determined to liberate himself from the constraints of the material world. Wilkinson sometimes spends too much time pontificating on the significance of his subject’s actions, but he makes up for it with his deft handling of dialogue and his talent for pacing.
A disarmingly earnest portrait of an enigmatic figure.