Schrand (Creative Writing/Univ. of Idaho; The Enders Hotel: A Memoir, 2008) returns with a coming-of-age memoir involving around 30 influential books.
The author had a novel idea: Pick a bunch of books, arrange them alphabetically by author surname and write about the period in his life when each book was prominent. With this decision, Schrand eschews standard chronology and keeps readers alert—a chapter about his experience in his first college English class is followed by one about ninth grade. But the flow remains generally forward, from early boyhood onward. The overall, eventually tiresome, narrative is this: I came from a fairly rough Idaho background; I screwed up in school; I screwed up big-time in college; I experimented with drugs; I had lots of sex; I married a good woman; she helped me grow up; I became a father; I matured; I got graduate degrees (and really good grades); I got a job and published a book. Schrand’s books are generally unsurprising. Hemingway, John Irving, Toni Morrison, S.E. Hinton, Orwell, etc.—with a few Westerners mixed in, including Barry Lopez, Annie Proulx and Wallace Stegner. Schrand is not always careful about the consistency of his imagery. “Hindsight storms my mind,” he observes in one place; in another, he talks metaphorically about “a new book that washes up on the shores” (was it in a waterproof container?). The occasional cliché pops up, as well—e.g., he gets his head around things, and electricity courses through his body.
A middling memoir.