Journalist and filmmaker Jamison offers a wicked, wonderfully crafted memoir about growing up in California and Oregon amid a nutty, unlovely clan.
As a youth, the author had to navigate a course of survival among the towering, angry personalities who dominated a shaky household. His father was an anti-establishment dreamer who despised the Mormon Church of which his wife was a devout member. He believed in free will above all else, and after he was laid off as a carpenter and had no source of income, he decided that the family would live more nobly from the rich finds of a dumpster. “More trash means less work,” Dad’s system of economy ran. “Less work means . . . just skiing, sledding, igloo building. Food stamps.” Jamison’s irate mother fluctuated alarmingly in weight, gorging secretly to allay her dissatisfaction with her marriage and lying to hide what the author calls her “staggering stupidity.” The older sister was a sadist who often physically tortured her hated siblings and eventually displaced their father, ruling cruelly over Jamison and his younger brother. Once the marriage ended, Mom headed to her Mormon sisters in Oregon, where she rededicated herself to the church. The children were baptized, and Jamison was sent to a camp run by pederast scoutmaster Gary, who duly taught the boys about fornication and how to play strip poker. Eventually, the father returned, but the marriage dissolved. The divorce was followed by the displacement of Mom and the kids to a “shitbox” in town, while her former spouse moved back to California to chase impossible sailing dreams and evade child-support responsibilities. Still, though, the narrator cannot despise his father. His mother might call him a “selfish jerk” who had “nothing to give back,” but what Dad did do was to set his son free, so to speak, in the riches of the imagination.
Recollections in a fresh voice—with sharp teeth.