Oxford American humor columnist Key (English/Savannah Coll. of Art and Design) pens a memoir about his father, a man with “the emotional tenderness of a Soviet farm tractor.”
As a boy, the author was partial to sock puppets, calligraphy, and poems tapped out on an electric typewriter. Even so, “Pop” attempted to teach his son all the necessary outdoor skills so important to a growing boy, including contact sports, fishing, fighting, and the frequent employment of firearms to “kill shit.” (In a “Note to the Reader,” the author writes, “I have changed the names of many characters…because most of those people own guns.”) Those were the pertinent and suitable activities for boys coming of age in the environs of Coldwater, Mississippi. Key’s relationships with his loving mother, a badass elder brother, and, eventually, a beloved wife and cherished children all connect with Pop and the author’s position as the strange scion of a big man with a huge head on a red neck. The author eventually evolved from a blameless, scared kid to an innocent, scared adult as he learned the odd joy of danger and how to wear a bow tie. Pop evolved, as well, as the paterfamilias who learned to disregard his instinctive rule for human contact: men over here, women over there. Key had his basic training in American civilization, particularly as practiced in the not-so-long-ago South. His spouse supervised such matters as babies—how to make them, diaper them, and raise them—though she is never mentioned by name. Forget the touch of Jean Shepherd, the satire of Gary Shteyngart, or the dash of Dave Barry; Key’s talent is all his own, and it is solid. Consistently seasoned with laughs, this memoir is adroitly warm and deep when it is called for.
An uncommonly entertaining story replete with consistent wit and lethal weaponry.