A collection of blog posts focuses on the author’s experiences during a long life.
In his first book, Russell (Cold Turkey at Nine: The Memoir of a Problem Child, 2013) covers such difficult territory as the murder of his paranoid schizophrenic mother by his father. The author calls his latest work a “continuation of that effort to explain my life,” but it is made of more cheerful stuff, consisting of a diverting compendium of blog posts that illustrate his “meandering mind” and “lifelong tendency to find humor in the mundane, to try to entertain as well as inform, and to recognize my fallibilities and foibles.” Russell returns to his childhood on a Tennessee farm, but this time he fondly recollects activities ranging from mule skinning and tobacco harvesting to corncob fights and “throwing cherry bombs into quiet herds of cattle.” His humor comes through in a portrait of his grandmother, who would pull her long dress down to her ankles “to prevent NBC’s Chet Huntley and David Brinkley from looking up it as they broadcast the news” and who satisfied her sweet tooth by adding sugar to snuff. In later life, a street haircut in India has him wistfully recalling “those haircuts that Daddy gave me under a shade tree on our Tennessee farm when I was a little boy.” The author also exhibits an engaging sense of the absurd—a new restaurant near his former home in Texas promises, à la Arlo Guthrie’s hit song, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.” But when he visits it with his wife and friends, it is out of everything on the menu except hamburgers. Russell’s forays into travel writing are less effective and somewhat messy. He attributes the restrictions on private vehicle travel in Alaska’s Denali National Park in part to minimizing the number of people eaten by grizzlies. But there has only been one known fatal attack in the park’s history. A few of the volume’s snapshots are as dispensable as a Chinese fortune cookie, and some readers may yearn for something more substantial. But Russell's affable nature and evident wonderment at the world around him ultimately win the day.
While some of the book tends toward the trivial, most of its anecdotes highlight life’s absurdities with wry humor.